One of the most treasured aspects of the Indigenous community is the support and celebration of each other’s work, especially in creative pursuits. Whether it’s through kind words, sharing on social media, or purchasing products, the way artists promote one another always shows the values in our cultures. Kianna Joe (Navajo) knows this well, having created her own platform to share her and other Indigenous creative’s art through her zine: She Towers. Speaking with Kianna, we learned all about their latest venture and how they’re putting together an accessible and inclusive space for artists of all kinds to present their talents.
Kianna attributes her creative nature to her father, who dabbled in all sorts of artistic activities. While she enjoyed it as a hobby, she felt nervous about pursuing writing as a career due to the pressure from her family to join either the medical field or the government. Still wanting to explore her ambitions, she secretly joined a writing competition where she submitted a short story about diversity and generational trauma through the Navajo experience. Kianna ended up winning first place, and the encouragement she got from this and other Indigenous creatives inspired her to change her major and start pursuing journalism.
Collaborating with other writers and artists has always been an important value to her, such as when Kianna lived in Phoenix, and she wanted to ingratiate herself with the local native community, so she put together events for other creatives to come and share their work.
After moving and being away from the art space she usually worked in, Kianna still wanted to be collaborative with other artists and continue building up a network. Knowing that she also wanted to one day have her own magazine, she realized she could work towards both goals through a zine. A zine can be described as a “mini-magazine” where artists can share their voices with little to no restrictions through a medium that can be easily and quickly released.
“The name ‘She Towers’ is a play on my second clan, ‘Towering House People’. The way that our clan system works is the first one is your mom’s, and the second is your dad’s. My dad passed away when I was super young, and I always felt the need to honor him somehow.”
Having learned what goes into a zine from a workshop and classes, she began working on the first issue in August of this year. When she put out a call for artists, she was surprised at the number of initial responses she got, seeing how many people were interested in contributing. Kianna found that with these first few issues, she really had to find her footing when it came to collaborating and communicating with these groups of artists in a structured and organized way.
“The first issue was ‘To Begin,’ creative’s interpretation of what beginning means to them. I wanted to share cycles of healing and center around mental health. Healing is super important to me; that’s how this zine formed because there were a lot of things that had happened this past year that always had me like, ‘Creator, give me a break’, so I keep having to go through this cycle to heal again, and I wanted to see what that meant to other people.”
The second issue’s theme centered around anger, and in Kianna’s case, particularly relating to the recent overturning of Roe V Wade, an issue that she cares deeply about. Kianna is very adamant, though, about not letting her own personal interpretation of the theme dominate the zine, highlighting each artist and contributor’s personal views on the subject.
Kianna hopes that as she irons out her system of creating these, she can continue to release a zine monthly while balancing her other work. Along with the recent release of She Towers’ third issue, Kianna launched the zine’s website and podcast, the first episode being an interview with Indigenous director Peshawn Bread. Continuing with her collaborative focus, Kianna worked with another journalist, Shayden Joe, and helped to publish his own podcast on the website where he interviewed Dirt Rhodes.
Her own latest episode is a revitalization of an old podcast Kianna ran, AsdzaanTsopod. “AsdzannTso means ‘big woman,’ and that was my nickname when I was younger from my grandpa and my dad. Peshawn and I were talking about this, your family makes your biggest insecurity your nickname…My grandpa and I talked about it recently, too; he said, ‘physically, you’re not just a big woman, you’re taking over a lot of these things that your dad taught you, and you’re making these connections for younger generations.”
Along with these new additions, Kianna is excited at the prospect of what else she can add to She Towers as it evolves as a publication and media outlet. She plans on making the zine her personal brand, her ultimate goal is to publish her own magazine that focuses on Indigenous language and cultural revitalization. What she reflects on the most in this short time is how she’s achieving her dream of supporting her fellow artists and creating a platform to uplift and share native creations.
“That part has been super rewarding, but also, hand in hand with that is a lot of the encouraging words that I’ve been getting from my family, my friends, people that I’ve been networking with…I want to grow, I want to be challenged, and I want to hear criticism and what I can do better in the zine…I want people to come to me so I can help them with their art to get seen everywhere.”
You can learn more about Kianna Joe and She Towers here and on Instagram @shetowerszine