Zine Celebrates Indigenous Artists

When photo-based artist Joi Arcand moved back to Saskatoon from Vancouver in 2012, she saw an opportunity to use her publication skills to promote Indigenous artists. "I was seeing a lot of really exciting artwork, especially from youth, and I wanted to share it with people," she says.

She joined forces with recent University of Saskatchewan graduate Leah Arcand and community-focused activist Jarita Greyeyes to create kimiwan ("rain" in Plains Cree) zine, a hand-made, independent quarterly publication. The zine explores themes of Indigenous identity and cultural resurgence through art forms such as photography, painting, drawing, short stories, poems and personal essays.

The first issue, published in fall 2012, received an overwhelming response - all 300 issues sold. Word spread around the globe through social media, resulting in submissions from across Canada and as far as Hawaii and New Zealand. "When I started, I didn't even know that there would be a second issue!" Arcand exclaims.

The collective just sold out its eighth issue, Indigenous Futurisms, and is focusing on ways to expand distribution.

The special kisisaskāciwani (Saskatchewan) issue, released in June 2014, was made possible through the Indigenous Pathways Initiative - Grants to Artists program. Previously, the publication was financed by the collective members, with support from fundraisers and donations. Arts Board funding enabled the zine to compensate artists and writers for the first time and also pay collective members for their tireless work.

Each issue is launched with a party that features contributing artists and writers, as well as Indigenous musicians. Participants in launch and fundraising events reflect the zine's national popularity - CBC personality Wab Kinew, comedian Ryan McMahon and Juno award-winning band A Tribe Called Red have all lent their support.

kimiwan zine features contributors from age 8 to 80, with emerging and established artists given equal billing. Collective members give talks at schools to raise awareness of the publication among youth. "We believe that an artist is an artist at any age. There's no shortage in the quality of art that's being produced, so it leaves us with an easy job," says Arcand.

Issues may be purchased at the zine's online store or at Saskatoon businesses Turning the Tide, McNally Robinson Booksellers, Better Good, and the Mendel Art Gallery Gift Shop. Copies are also available at stores in Vancouver and Winnipeg.

For more, visit www.kimiwan-zine.com.

Front page: Cover images of kimiwan zine issues 3.

Above: Cover images of kimiwan zine issues 2.