Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre organises first Comics and Zines Fest on campus

16 March 2021

By Zhu Wentao

Have you ever thought of channelling your creative energy into comics and zines? Or creating your own comic universe, like those in the Marvel movies?

To support students’ diverse interests in creative expression, Yale-NUS College’s Writers’ Centre organised the first Comics and Zines Fest during recess week from 25 to 27 February 2021. The festival line-up featured workshops and discussions on topics such as scriptwriting, drawing techniques and zine-making, as well as a 24-hour zine and comic making marathon held on campus.

”Zines 101: Tell Your Story” workshop with comics journalist Sarah Mirk, held via Zoom. Image provided by Farheen Asim.

On how the festival came about, Assistant Professor of Practice in Humanities (Language and Rhetoric) and Director of the Writers’ Centre Tait Bergstrom pointed to growing interests amongst the student body to create and share their own comics. “Comics can be both a form of solitary expression or part of a collaborative project. It doesn’t involve a lot of equipment or money, either. All these mean that the barriers to entry are relatively low. There is also a social aspect to it, in the sense that you can show it to your friends and get an immediate response, which is oftentimes what you really need,” said Asst Prof Bergstrom.

Asst Prof Bergstrom conducted a ‘Writing Your Comic’ workshop where he took participants through the process of developing a script and planning for a comics page, and gave students insights into the scripting process from first thoughts to full script to page layout. He made reference to his experience organising a comics convention back in Portland, Oregon in the United States. “I have always had a personal interest in comics, having created comics for both the general market in the United States as well as educational presses in China.” All these, according to Asst Prof Bergstrom, helped him in curating the line-up of events for the festival.

Ms Farheen Asim (Class of 2020), Executive at the Writers’ Centre, was also involved in organising the festival. “We started planning for a smaller event in December last year when we were talking to a student about running a visual storytelling workshop. After that, we were able to get in touch with other zine-makers, comic writers, and artists who were interested in hosting similar events – it all ballooned from there,” she said.

At the festival, Ms Asim led the session ‘Comics as Personal Journals’ with Residential Life Officer Olivia Dure. Ms Asim and Ms Dure are the artists behind the Instagram account @faraway.olives, where they produce art around accountability, interpersonal harm, and community healing. In their workshop, they explored comics as a cathartic space to process grief and express our imaginations about radical futures.

Tanya Sharma (Class of 2023) who attended the session, shared, “I absolutely loved the event led by Farheen and Olivia. Overall, it was a really wonderful and safe space to draw out comics based on our personal lives and learn about how they can be both tools for self-reflection or processing emotions as well as for advocacy, especially for causes like climate justice or accountability. I left the session feeling inspired and hopeful.”

‘24-hour Comics and Zine Making Bonanza’  held on campus. Image provided by Farheen Asim. 

One of the highlights of the festival is the 24-hour zine-making marathon held at Cendana College’s Rectors Commons and the arts studios. The session started with a talk by Lecturer of Humanities (Visual Arts) Yanyun Chen and Lecturer of Humanities (Writing) Lawrence Ypil to introduce the basic concepts related to zine-making and creative writing. Throughout the event, students were provided with book covers, newspapers, paintbrushes and various other materials to create their innovative projects. Participants also went on meal outings during the event to bond with their fellow creators. The finished products were then displayed in the College library.

Comics and zines displayed in the College Library. Image taken by Glen Ang for Yale-NUS College. 

Going forward, Asst Prof Bergstrom said Writers’ Centre will continue to support all forms of creative expression that students are interested in, including organising similar events in the future and integrating the creative medium into the Common Curriculum. “Even after this event has finished up, we still have the Literature and Humanities curriculum that gets into the comics and other visual media.  It aligns really well with our objective here.”

To learn more about the events and activities by Yale-NUS Writers’ Centre, visit here.