Photo for Zine-making for storytelling and coalition-building

Founder and editor-in-chief of Buah zine, Teta Alim discuss zines and heritage-centered storytelling.

By Kitty Hu (UCLA, 2020)

From magazines to Buah zine

From a young age, Teta Alim has loved magazines. From Teen Vogue to various Indonesian publications, she was drawn to how magazines captured a certain period of time.

After following several Latinx and Black creators on Tumblr, Alim grew increasingly interested in zines, self-published magazines often in small circulation, and its power to amplify stories outside the mainstream narratives. "I wanted to create a space for people of Indonesian heritage and diaspora to unpack and dive deep into what their Indonesian heritage means to them beyond Indomie, nasi goreng and wearing batik," Alim said. "So that’s why I chose zines."

At the final event for the summer speaker series hosted by the UCLA Association of Indonesian Americans in collaboration with the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Alim shared about the history of zine-making and the growth of Buah zine.  

What does heritage mean?

Alim was born in Jakarta, Indonesia, but moved to upstate New York when she was a child. "My parents used to do long road trips to Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Boston to meet up with other Indonesians," she remembered. "I could not share my identity and culture with many people without having to explain a lot of it." 

To address a desire for more community, Alim officially launched Buah zine in 2018, but she has been working on this idea since 2013. With two published issues to date, Buah is an online and printed zine for anyone exploring their Indonesian heritage, whether that be through art, words or other creative forms. Submissions are open year-round, while publications come out every summer.

"A lot of how we relate to our Indonesian heritage is through our religious affiliation, which ethnic groups we belong to and whether we grew up with an Indonesian community or had to figure it out on our own," she learned. "There are so many different reasons for coming to the United States. It’s difficult to say what the Indonesian experience is."

Alim tries to keep Buah’s stories as open as possible to focus on heritage instead of nationality. "I’m not interested in borders. I’m more interested in the human ties to our heritage," she explained. "But I’m also learning the limits of that because of my own ethnic and religious identities"

A Space for Reframing

It has been a continuous learning process for Alim to explore stories within the Indonesian diaspora, but she also wants to build more solidarity with individuals living in Indonesia. "Physical markers can be taken down," Alim said, "And a lot of our family stories are complicated and painful." However, she encourages students to ask questions at home and document those familial histories if everyone is comfortable doing so.  

Asides from sharing Indonesian stories, Alim hopes that Buah zine will be a space to build coalitions with other communities of color. In an April 2018 piece about anti-Blackness and Indonesian rapper Rich Brian, Alim writes, "I think it’s time we actually address the anti-blackness that is so common among us, and work on destroying it within all the communities we may be a part of."

Alim credits many creators of color for paving the way in how she thinks about Buah zine. She shared that the community has been incredibly inviting and has welcomed her to participate in zine fests, talks and workshops. Many major cities now have their own zine fests, which offer opportunities for artists to table and share their work.

Ultimately, Buah serves to highlight stories of the Indonesian diaspora and "to challenge harmful narratives and broaden what it means to have Indonesian heritage," Alim said. 





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Published: Thursday, September 17, 2020