Good Places to Put Zines in New Zealand [No.1] – Black Star Books
Name: Black Star Books
Where? Dunedin, New Zealand
What kind of zines? Anarchist, feminist, perzines, Xena fan fiction
Doesn’t NZ only have around 5 million people? Possibly. But you don’t need that many to keep an info shop running.
Do they have a life-size replica of Lucy Lawless next to the counter? Nope, not that kind of shop.
[This is one of those places I’ve never been to, but I heard about it from others so I e-mailed Black Star and asked some questions…]
Oli: Most small book shops in Hong Kong look pretty bleak. Zine stores and info-shops in general, too. Your place is the opposite. Why so colourful?
Black Star: Colours are rad.
Oli: You use the name ‘Black Star Books Collective.’ Does it have anything to do with science-fiction?
Black Star: Nope… we are a collective which strives to operate along anarchist principles such as anti-authoritarian consensus decision making processes and other fun things like that A black star is an anarchist symbol…
Oli: Wikipedia says Dunedin has 127,000 people. Not tiny, but not huge either. Is it a struggle to get people into your shop?
Black Star: We are right in the center of town but on a block that’s not really on the way to anything other than houses so we don’t get a lot of local foot traffic. Thus, many of our walk-in-off-the-street visitors are travellers who don’t know any better than to wander up to upper moray place. We are tucked around the back of the CORSO building so, despite the trail of signs leading to our door, its a little tricky to find even if you are trying! We do a thing called Peoples’ Kitchen every Friday night which is a free shared meal and discussion, everyone welcome, made possible by donations and cooperation. That has been good for bringing people in and making the space feel more like a social center than a shop. The DIY bike making workshop Crooked Spoke is out the back too so there are always hungry bike punx/nerds who come up to Black Star for Peoples’ Kitchen too.
Oli: What kind of zines you got?
Black Star: We have two zine archives: one we inherited form Glue Gallery, an artist run space that closed a couple years ago. They entrusted us with their collection mostly of arty/personal zines. Then we have the Black Star archive which is more focused on political zines especially anything produced in Aotearoa/New Zealand. There are zines on DIY stuff (how to tan hides, make your own menstrual pads, make herbal remedies, fix bikes, etc.) Indigenous resistance and decolonisation, gender, sexuality, environmental issues, community organising, workers struggles, anarchism, anti-capitalism, art…….
We also have zines for sale, some we do for sale or return or buy from the authors and some copy-left ones we reproduce from masters ourselves with our handy dandy photocopier.
Oli: If you were going to be mummified and put under a pyramid, which zine would you take with you? [Basically, what is your favourite zine, not which zine do you want to hide away so the rest of the world never has to read it]
Black Star: Ummm…. That’s a hard one.
Oli: Zines are completely democratic, anyone can make them, but is anyone reading anymore?
Black Star: We definitely don’t sell as much as we used to a few years ago. Its an interesting question I have been pondering lately: how do infoshops need to transform in relation to the changing technologies of the day to stay relevant and useful as spaces for DIY and radical info sharing? Paper is so old fashioned now. Blogs are like virtual zines these days and people buy fewer and fewer books as more and more info is available online. But I reckon you can’t beat a beautifully printed and bound zine with a cup of coffee. It’s a totally different experience. Plus they make great snail mail presents and everyone knows a letter is better than an email or instant message.
Oli: In Hong Kong, independent shops last about a year before the rent kills them. Are the landlords in Dunedin also killers?
Black Star: We are blessed with free rent! CORSO who own the building are one of the oldest social justice NGOs in Aotearoa. They own this beautiful rundown building and don’t need the space so they let collectives like Black Star, Crooked Spoke and Rape Crisis use it.
Oli: Do you think there’s a point where you’ve gotta give up [on zines] and move on to something that can actually make cash?
Black Star: No. We are an anti-profit project and since our over heads are extremely small we don’t have to worry too much about making regular amounts of money. We should get out and do more market stalls and stuff though because we need to get some new photocopying technology thanks to manufactured obsolescence. Grrr.
Oli: Jamie Foxx had a picture of a tropical island in his taxi in ‘Collateral’. Do you have a picture of anything behind the desk in your shop i.e. what are you plans for the future?
Black Star: We have pictures everywhere! We have a dream of properly cataloguing everything in our book and zine archives so as to have a legit system for finding, lending (and returning!) things. We have a dream of extending Peoples’ Kitchen out to a wider audience and those who most need a free meal… and various other dreams.
Oli: It’s a long shot, but has Marton Csokas ever been in your shop?
Black Star: Not that I am aware of… but I’ll let you know if he does.
How to get there:
Get to the Octagon (central Dunedin). Head west up the hill on Stewart Street for one block. Turn left on Moray Place. The CORSO building is just there on the right. The café Kitchen Table is on the street level. If we are open there will be a sign out on the foot path. Go down the driveway on left of building and up the stairs round the back and follow the signs. Don’t be put off by our little kitchen through which you must pass to get to the lounge and infoshop, you are almost there