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Hamilton-based artist launches a zine distro and micropress to showcase the local work of zinemakers

C/O @partizanka.press

As we go through lockdown after lockdown and can’t physically be together, we seek community in other unusual ways. One way Tara Bursey, a Hamilton-based artist and arts educator, has been bringing communities together is by sharing zines made by zinemakers across Canada and the United States through her recently launched Partizanka Press.

Partizanka Press is an independent zine distro and micropress. The distributor and small publisher has a particular focus on punk, politics, hidden history, social justice, art and music scenes.

Zines, short for magazine or fanzine, are a small-circulation of non-commercially printed, often self-printed, original work. There are no rules to zines. It is a platform for self-expression and a dynamic medium for subcultural or oppressed voices.

Bursey started the zine distro and micropress because she has always had a passion for zines. She created her first zine at the age of 12 and her first zine distro at the age of 17. 20 years later, the launch of Partizanka Press reflects the revitalization of her long-lived passion. It reflects her goal of promoting the community of zinemakers and the power of zines to express underrepresented and diverse ideas.

“For the most part, [zine making] is a very local scene where local people support each other to talk about zines and create work. But from observing the design community in Hamilton, I wondered how much people were looking at some of the incredible and diverse scenes that are being made outside of Hamilton or even outside Ontario,” explained Bursey.

“For the most part, [zine making] is a very local scene where local people support each other to talk about zines and create work. But from observing the design community in Hamilton, I wondered how much people were looking at some of the incredible and diverse scenes that are being made outside of Hamilton or even outside Ontario.”

Tara Bursey

Zines have always functioned as a way to fill the gaps where mainstream publishers and media have failed. For this reason, it was important for Bursey to honour the histories and ideas left out of popular culture as part of this project.

It was also important for Bursey to name the distro and micropress after her grandmother, Partizanka. Her grandmother was a guerrilla fighter during the Greek Civil War, a 19th-century conflict which not many people know about.

“[My grandmother’s] existence and her history reminds me that there are all sorts of histories and ideas that go unknown. So this was an opportunity for me to play a role in helping people’s ideas, histories and identities be honoured,” said Bursey. 

“[My grandmother’s] existence and her history reminds me that there are all sorts of histories and ideas that go unknown. So this was an opportunity for me to play a role in helping people’s ideas, histories and identities be honoured,”

Tara bursey

Bursey was most excited to improve the accessibility of zines and allow people to enjoy them during this challenging time as many opportunities to attend zine fairs or markets were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially during the lockdowns when people’s normal ways of connection were lost, the intimate and personal touch of zines felt even more special to the community of zinemakers and lovers. 

“A zinemaker’s approach to making a zine is very individual from the paper they choose to the ink colours they choose . . . Being able to get [zines] at this time, it just takes on a whole new meaning because of their personal scale,” said Bursey.

“A zinemaker’s approach to making a zine is very individual from the paper they choose to the ink colours they choose . . . Being able to get [zines] at this time, it just takes on a whole new meaning because of their personal scale,”

tara bursey

During Ontario’s stay-at-home order, Bursey also offered free contactless drop-offs of orders to people across the city, further emphasizing the theme of personal connection and intimacy.

Through her work in Partizanka Press, Bursey hopes to inspire and support more zinemakers to publish their work and introduce a larger community to zines. 

Sometime in April, she will be publishing her own zine under Partizanka Press, which will also be the first publication under the micropress label. At the Toronto Comic Arts Festival in May, you can expect to see Partizanka Press as part of the festival’s zine fair.

Bursey’s initiative to bring tangible, physical pieces of art, when all we have access to are virtual means of connection and entertainment, offers a refreshing way to experience community.

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