A voice through zines

Kenya (Nairobi)

The self-published DIY ‘zine has always been the domain of those in search of alternatives. Its DIY nature eschews the laws of the market to create a platform for those on the periphery of modern-day power structures to express their ideas. Now, thanks to Australian photographer Harrison Thane and English writer Tom Grass, the voice of marginalised young people living in Kibera, a sprawling slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, can be heard too.

Zinester conduct workshops in which participants learn the basic skills involved in designing their own lo-fi magazine, from photography and layout, to managing a project and keeping track of budgets. In an area where basic education is considered a luxury and where unemployment averages at about 50%, the workshops not only teach invaluable skills, but also encourage the young people involved to present their own, often powerful, stories.  

In return, their voices are given an audience by inviting local leaders to discuss the issues raised and by partnering with international NGOs who use images from the zines in international campaigns: “Big media and NGOs need stories that are told in the unique, raw voices of those experiencing them to remain current, relevant and authentic,” says Thane. As images their impact is undeniable, presenting poignant and provoking narratives with the real potential to engage audiences in the West. The founders hope to gain more funding so that their zine-making workshops can continue to search for alternatives across the world.

Editor’s update 23 November 2016:

Currently working with Save the Children in Egypt on a zine about how to become a successful young woman, Harrison Thane and the Zinesters spent the end of the year working in Ethiopia’s hills of Bekoji with an initiative called Girls Gotta Run: “This is where the nation’s greatest athletes are trained and where many Olympian marathon champions originate. Girls Gotta Run is a training group for aspiring young runners. We spent time with them to explore the underpinning benefits to both the individual as well as the community.”

What you can do: capture unique voices

Support the Zinesters to help youth and marginalised groups to think critically about what is important to them and provide them with the confidence and the skills to capture their narratives visually in the ‘zine’ format.

Zinester is No.13 on the Best Atlas projects 2015. Find out what else made the list here.

Written by

Laura Humphries (24 September 2015)


Laura Humphries is a Barcelona/London-based writer interested in matters of urbanism, international development, human rights and more.

Project leader

Harrison Thane and Tom Grass

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