Anthropology students create zine to record 'footsteps of civilisation and culture'

  • Family
  • Monday, 07 Mar 2022

The colourful art spread by Tia, called The Leaf.

It was a fateful meeting between Sara Salimi and Tia Najya Effendee, both of whom, as it would turn out, had a yearning for self-publishing. Sara, the senior among the two, had just been elected president of the anthropological society at Universiti Malaya (Ansos) and in her new role, she wanted more engagement with other Ansos students.

“It’s a funny story because in my first year I was always trying to skip the programmes organised by the society. I came up with excuses not to get involved,” she said, with a laugh. “But I was approached when it was time to vote in a new club committee and I was like, ‘Okay, why not’. I didn’t expect to win, though.

“It was sort of like karma... I used to avoid it and now I’m the president,” shared Sara, 24, who was born and raised in Klang, Selangor.

After some introspection, Sara realised that the reason she’d evaded activities of the society previously was because she felt they did not showcase what anthropology and sociology was about. She decided to gather ideas from “whoever was around” and to invite them to contribute “in a way they wanted”.

So, the students met and planned programmes for the next three to six months. It was through this pivotal meeting that a whole new slate of activities was born, including social campaigns, social justice infographics, myths and folklore stories which was shared on their social media platform on Instagram as well as designing T-shirts, sharing cultural recipes.

Also in the books was publishing a zine.

The first issue of Paths was out last August.The first issue of Paths was out last August.

Tia was among those in the meeting who put forward the idea of publishing a zine and her eagerness and experience in the area led her to become the zine’s editor.

“Before I got into UM, I was thinking about how I could do something memorable during my time in university. I watched The Social Network and they had The Crimson and The Lampoon and I was like ‘Oh wow! they have a school newspaper’. I thought that I would like to join a school newspaper... and then I found out that UM doesn’t have a school newspaper,” laughed Tia.

“So this zine, I guess is less regulated than a newspaper, and it’s something more creative. Plus I’ve been collecting zines too. I gave (the group) my suggestion and I’m glad people took it well,” said Tia, 20.

They agreed to let the students contribute to the zine by opening submissions for poetry, short stories, and drawings.

“I told Tia we should just experiment with it first (in terms of content) and not be too rigid about it. So we opened for submissions and also included some of the folk and myth stories we had published previously on social media,” said Sara.

Stories about humanity

Tia’s skills led to the production of Paths, an A5-sized, 32 page full-colour zine, the first issue of which was released in August 2021. Tia did the cover art as well as illustrations, lettering and laying out the pages.

She also contributed an iconic art spread in the zine called The Leaf as well as a two page comic featuring her poetry, Where The Sun Rises.

“The reference for The Leaf was this black and white picture of a 1920s performer which I came across and he had make-up on and he wore leaves. I was very struck by that image. As for the garb and the butterfly... all that are things that I normally gravitate to in my art,” shared Tia whose background in publishing includes graphic design projects while she was still in school.

The zine also features illustrations by contributors Sarah Jay and Ann Gong Xin who supplied the art for the second half of the zine which is the section on the myths, legends and folk tales from Malaysia and around the world.

A clear motif of Tia’s is her use of botanicals – the plant kingdom plays a role in her studies but is also her inspiration for her art.

“I gravitate towards flora because, even though I’ve been doing art and have been going to art classes and I did art in high school, I’ve never been able to draw people. So I spent a lot of time drawing plants and things instead of human forms.

“Anthropology also has a lot to do with nature... humans and nature, so I just wanted to incorporate that as well,” said Tia who used Photoshop and a stylus to draw on her laptop which also doubles as a tablet.

Sara (left) and Tia collaborated on the zine and invited other students to submit their work. Photo: Rizal JohanSara (left) and Tia collaborated on the zine and invited other students to submit their work. Photo: Rizal Johan

It is no surprise to learn that Tia is a fan of comics especially Japanese manga which she has been reading from a young age.

“I really like Clamp. They are a collective of four women and they created Card Captor Sakura which is kind of iconic (in manga).”

While it may seem that the zine focuses on women’s issues, it was purely coincidental as, Tia explained, the department consists mainly of women.

“Of course, we’re all passionate about women’s issues so it’s a subject we end up going back to,” said Tia.

The folk tales were curated by Farisya Azwar and consists of the Orang Asli (Malaysia’s original peoples) legend of the rainbow snake; the tale of the legendary princess from Sarawak, Puteri Santubong; the cautionary tale of Si Tanggang in the Malay culture; Natsilane from the Tlingit culture of the American northwest; and Panhu The Dragon Dog legend from China.

The first half of the zine consists of poetry sent in by contributors Panina, Jay and one who wished to remain anonymous. The poems celebrate womanhood, hopes and dreams, love and self-realisation.

“I thought the zine is a good way to move forward because I believe that the messages or ideas and stories that every one of us in the department contributed can be related back to our interest in anthropology and sociology.

“It’s about someone’s point of view. And the myths and folklore are a cultural viewpoint of nature and people. Those are the messages we hope to share – the many viewpoints of anthropology students.

“This zine is also important because these words, stories and artwork can be conserved in print form and I hope it will eventually reflect our efforts and our department,” said Sara.

The name Paths was chosen “to describe the footsteps (civilization and culture) left by humans throughout history, tracing the journey of humans through time and space.”

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students , zine , voices of women


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