I’VE BEEN CHATTING with travel writers, activists and personalities of color about their experiences navigating the media industry and the globe with an intersectional lens, while exploring themes like power, privilege, place, and identity, themes that are rarely touched on in the mainstream travel space. Read previous #Dispatches here.
Bani Amor: Tell us about yourself. How would you describe what you do?
BA: How does place influence/factor into your work?
MB: Since I’ve been on the road since May 2012, I’d say place influences my work quite a bit. I feel like the work of documenting and chronicling what I see and experience in new places is heavily affected by the fact that I’m parachuting in and then leaving a couple of months later. It forces me to make intense connections quickly and try to minimize the feeling of dislocation for myself. It makes me think about the outsider/insider perspective a lot and to be sensitive to/respectful of the local politics of the place I’m in.
MB: In May 2012, I started a 14 month trip around the world to make zines about queer art and activism. I ended up going to 15 countries and making zines about 8 of them which you can see in full color at queerscribe.com I was particularly interested in finding how the local culture, politics, history, geography etc. affected the media used by artists and activists in queer communities. For example, the opening of a queer film festival in Bangalore, India has encouraged many more locals to try their hands at film making.
I also performed in most of the countries I visited as a way to give back to communities, but most of the time I was trying to meet as many different kinds of queer artists and activists, attending events, lectures and festivals.
MB: Initially it was that I had my camera, laptop and cell phone stolen within the first couple of months of my trip. I’d say I got over each episode pretty quickly but there were moments where I wanted to put more into the zines but couldn’t because I didn’t have a personal computer. I made all of the zines on borrowed computers or in internet cafes. Ultimately, it was because I didn’t have an electronic barrier that I was able to jump into more social situations so it was a blessing in disguise.
Other than that, my first couple of weeks in Buenos Aires were rough because despite how overt gay culture is there, it felt extremely commercial and not at all what I was expecting. It took me a lot longer there than anywhere else to find any radical queer activists who welcomed me.
MB: I’d hope that I learned something about international queer communities after 14 months of focusing on it 😉 It’s almost too daunting to say anything in such a small space but I’ll say that I learned the importance of both staying true to your roots (or revitalizing your roots/indigenous traditions) and also adapting. Things are always in flux but I found the sticky tentacles of colonization contaminating most places. In those situations you just have to find a happy medium! And many vibrant queer communities around the world were doing just that 🙂
MB: I specifically chose zines for their DIY and low-budget nature (except the time when I printed in color–eek!). I wanted a medium that wouldn’t be pretentious and could be easily/cheaply distributed. I found that performing was great on site, but to share different stories, I can’t imagine using anything other than zines.
BA: Which QTPOC* artists/writers/projects inspire your work? What would you like to see more of?
Aami Atmaja, Tania de Rozario, Louise Chen, Elisha Lim, Aryakrishnan Ramakrishnan…
I’d like to see more collaborations!
BA: Anything you’d like to add before we wrap up?
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Also, I’m raising funds to become a yoga teacher. Visit my campaign at igg.me/at/miyukiyoga to see my amazingly edited (just kidding, I did it on iMovie) film and support me in exchange for zines, custom portraits, prints and more!