Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Radical 'zines' from Indonesia

In 2012 the IISH acquired a collection of Indonesian radical zines, issued in the period 1999-2005, the first years after the fall of the dictator Suharto in 1998.
The amount of fanzines or zines, small periodicals, mostly in A5 format, written, designed, and printed by activists, is impressive. Today, in the digital era, zines are still produced and issued. In July 2012 a national zines day was organized in Bandung.

The collection Indonesian Radical Zines provides a unique impression of the dynamics and creativity of the Post-Suharto or Post-New Order Indonesia. In fact, the production of zines, mainly a protest and underground medium, is a logical development in a country that suffered from a long tradition of oppression. Towards the end of the Suharto dictatorship and during the transition era thereafter, it was a way of communicating the frustration of the past and the desire for a new beginning. To express your opinion you had to be creative. Brave people had already written of their experiences with it in the long years of dictatorship.

But the issuing of zines is especially a phenomenon of the Indonesian Punk Movement. In the nineties Indonesian Punk Rockers were influenced by North American and European zines of the eighties, and started to produce zines. These zines concentrated on musical topics. The new tradition was continued by activists, mostly connected with the Punk scene, to express displeasure about the political status quo. During the Reformasi of 1998, which paid more attention to new and more radical political and artistic expressions, the production of zines grew enormously.

This collection comes from a house where various artists lived, and some of them had a direct influence on the production of these zines. In fact, a normal house was comprised of young, alternative and politically conscious people who shared their lives during the years of great optimism about a free and democratic Indonesia. Visitors came and left their zines. The householder, a female writer and activist, collected and kept the zines. One day the residents wanted to do spring cleaning. Contacts were made, and the zines were delivered to a person in Jakarta who was acquainted with the IISH.

Aside from this special collection, the IISG also has in its library some examples of zines that were put out for longer periods. In the library of the IISH you can find Terompet Rakyat, the zine of the artists’ collective Taring Padi from Yogyakarta. This zine shows how young, radical artists gave shape to severe social criticism by means of graphics and text. The IISH has the volumes 1999-2002 that are nearly complete.

2 January 2013