Interview With a Zine Maker: kuwa jasiri

Angi Brzycki, Senior Librarian, Digitization & Special Collections,
2 zine covers
Collage of zines created by kuwa jasiri

kuwa jasiri (first name) Indomela, pronoun the one, is a seed steward, wordsmith, and spiritual tender. This one engages in international writing and speaking opportunities that affirm People Of Heritage (Of Colour). kuwa jasiri is mainly self-taught, but completed internships with wild food educators and midwife Daphne SingingTree. kuwa jasiri is a graduate of the dynamic and ever-evolving People Of Colour Herbal Freedom School. The one currently writes for the Seed Broadcast Journal and self publishes zines. kuwa jasiri is the co-founder of several seed libraries across the country and the founding member of Authentic Creations, a grassroots organization that focuses on zines, seeds and solidarity.

The library has copies of your zines for patrons to borrow. How do you feel about the zines being accessible for the public?

I love the idea of my zines being accessible to the public. Lately, I find my zines at people's homes, which delights me, although I am finding out that they are seldom experienced cover to cover. My zines are to be interacted with, and I believe the library offers just that!

At our library, we have the following zines: Botanical Anatomy, Diné: Our Survival Is Bound to Theirs, First Aide to Face Adversity and Beautifully Brown. What inspired you to create each of them?

  • Botanical Anatomy, was my first zine, and was the outline for a workshop. I passed out the zine for folks to follow along with and take home. Folks seemed to show more interest in my zine than the workshop, which I no longer facilitate. This zine is now titled Wild Wisdom.
  • First Aide to Face Adversity, was my second zine; the first half focused more on street medicine and was also an outline for a workshop I no longer co-facilitate. The second half of the zine is my personal herb remedies glossary that I use when I make medicine. I am always attempting to integrate emergency response, health, and nature. I added the plant knowledge section when I transitioned into only promoting this material in zine format.
  • Diné: Our Survival Is Bound to Theirs. I am part of the Dine’ Supporters Network, which is an Indigenous-led movement of cultural preservation on the reservation. At the end of the "Community Report Back," an Elder asked for us to do anything we can to amplify their story. At that moment I "recognized" by writing and publishing platforms, and decided to curate a zine to do just that.
  • Beautifully Brown was originally created to tell my story and then became an outlet for my "Be Brave Art Show" in volume 2.

How did you get into zine making?

In 2016, I used zines as a teaching tool during my workshops. By the end of 2017, I was making zines for literature distribution. In 2018, I realized I can use zines as a way to tell stories and tend to wounds.

You've created a group called Authentic Creations, a grassroots organization that's been around since 2011. How did Authentic Creations become an organization? What kind of programs do you do?

In 2011, I was touring around environmental frontline campaigns learning about the truths of this world. After experiencing those narratives, I wanted to aide closer to my home. So I became part of the Dine’ Supporters Network an Indigenous-led movement on the land I occupy. My supporter work informed the early stages of Authentic Creations, which was a lot more herbal medicine based and one-third of my pocket change. This is our third cycle as a grant-funded By Us For Us, People Of Heritage (Of Colour) specific organization that increases and sustains accessible wellness services and education through initiatives such as artistic writing, ancestral gardening, seed stewardship, affinity gatherings, apprenticeships, celebrations, indigenous foods, theatre, educational literature and illustrations (zines).

In what ways have zines sustained your organization?

In my mind, zines are in the background of the organization. Which really is not the case. Zines accompany all of our offerings as accessible educational literature, resource directories, or program outlines. Zine sales offer tangible income that I can report to granters and remain funded. Zines also give me the founding executive and an outlet for my story, which is rare. So really zines seem to be the base of what I do, and in 2020 I am establishing an artistic writing program so zines can be recognized more within the organizational structure.

You distribute your zines all over the country in bookstores? What kind of connections/feedback have you received?

My zines with seeds are in bookstores, apothecaries, herbal schools, seed libraries, and public libraries all over Turtle Island and in Waveroo Territory, Australia, with 18 regular distribution outlets in total. My favorite moment is when a community member and I were at a public event, and they were boasting about these new zines they just got. I was really interested, so we meet up to show off the zines. Ahhh! Turns out, the really awesome zines were mine, and that warms my heart. People really love the seed packet inside the zine and the artsy collage-style the zines have. A farm on the east coast got one of the Diné: Our Survival Is Bound to Theirs and inquired with us about growing corn seeds for the Diné Nation. The zines are steadily becoming the most requested and loved part of our offerings. Last fall a group on the east coast contracted me to make a pollinator zine for their programs, which was fun and a bit of a challenge to complete with collaborative due dates.

What are some zines that you hope to create in the future?

At this moment, I have six zines on my to-make list. I am getting lots of requests to teach my community about grant writing, so I agreed to do a workshop and am making a zine for it because I already know that is all the people want (wink). I want to complete the Genderqueer Excellence Moon Calendar that I started in 2018. I need some type of seed saving zine for our seed initiatives. I have two zines in the works from my herbal medicine focused beginning; Medicine Making and Collective Care. We also may need a "term of inclusivity" zine, so our organization has a reference and direction for the work we do.

Do you collect zines or connect with other zine makers? Do you recommend any that we should add to our collection?

I do have a few other folks' zines. I usually pick up some now and then but keep them circulating. The ones that I have tucked away on my bookshelf are the Sheepherders Almanac collection by members of the Dine’ Supporters Network, The Black Tradition of Co-ops zine by the Cultivated Coop, Uprooting Colonialism by Indigenous Action Media, Dreams Of A Quiet Sea by Sophia McGovern, Death Rituals by India, and lastly, I have an unread copy of Brokenpencil which I bought to learn more about zine culture. Oops, I also recommend anything from Indigenous Action Media, and the Sheepherders Almanacs available through Authentic Creations.

Book cover for Beautifully Brown Like Me
Beautifully Brown Like Me
jasiri, kuwa

Book cover for Diné: Our Survival is Bound to Theirs
Diné: Our Survival is Bound to Theirs
jasiri, kuwa

Book cover for Botanical Anatomy
Botanical Anatomy
jasiri, kuwa

Book cover for First Aide to Face Adversity
First Aide to Face Adversity
jasiri, kuwa