Originally published at Wait A Minute Now
29 December 2017

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An Oversimplification of Al Ibrahim

One of the most popular zines we stock at Biawak Gemok is Race-ing and Dating, a collection of personal essays by writer, filmmaker and photographer Al Ibrahim. When I'm speeding customers through our titles, I usually say it's about dating while black in KL, but that description only skims the surface. In the zine, Al explores his identity as a black man, his inescapable Otherness since migrating to Malaysia over a decade ago. And he writes about dating, and racial preferences, and stereotypes, and privilege, and love.

He followed up Race-ing and Dating by compiling An Oversimplification of Us, an anthology zine of break-up stories. I checked in with him for an update from behind the scenes.

Al on zinemaking compared to other formats: "I do blog, but I like zines because of the physical nature of it. I also really like making things by hand. I enjoy doing the layout by hand. Cutting the text with scissors and glueing things around. Making sure I have enough pages and when I don't, adding more and moving things around to make sure that the whole feels ... well, whole, and not just a stray collection of articles. People have asked about digital copies of Race-ing and Dating and it's something I just won't do, because half of why it's put together the way it's put together is for the physical reading experience."

Al on how Race-ing and Dating came to be: "I think all but two of the pieces in it were already posts on my blog, but I wanted them together as a zine because I saw a thread through them and thought, if I'm able to put them in the right order, the zine will be greater than the sum of the parts. The articles in Race-ing and Dating were collected from writings over the course of maybe two to three years. The years I would describe as my 'coming of blackness'. I think in the opening I said something along the lines of everything being about race, just by virtue of me being a minority in the space. So even if I go for dinner at the mamak across the road, I'm going for dinner at the mamak across the road as a black man."

Al on a Race-ing and Dating sequel: "It's coming! 2018! You heard it here first! One thing that's making me procrastinate, as silly as it may sound, is the success of the first zine. When I made that one, I had no target. No care. No intention to educate. I did it purely for the love of creating something with my hands. And when people started telling me how much it resonated with them, I was blown away. For the second issue, I still want it to be fun. I still just want to tell stories. And I really want to preserve the spirit of the first. But then again, that's what every filmmaker says about a sequel they're making and well, let's just say that not every sequel is Godfather 2."

In addition to the upcoming Race-ing and Dating sequel, Al plans to release a new compilation zine in early 2018, titled KL I Love You. You can also read Al's piece about a recent encounter with the police.