Courageous Citizens: Vonne Hemels Back

Courageous Citizens: Vonne Hemels

In our series of interviews with our 2018 Courageous Citizens research and development grantees we introduce you to Vonne Hemels and her project Boomboomtales. Boomboomtales wanted to open a small cross-cultural printing house where locals and migrants in Lesvos could work together to create books. Using a risograph printer they intended to offer a space for creativity, learning and co-creation. Together with migrants they published books, stories, zines, postcards, maps, comic books and posters.

image courtesy of Boomboomtales

What was your idea about?

My idea was about storytelling as resistance. I had been giving workshops and making books related to postcolonial storytelling and migration, and I wanted to create a small publishing house where people with and without papers could work together to publish books.

How did your participation in the incubator workshop help you transform your idea into an effective project?

The incubator workshop helped me to identify possible risks and problems and set out ways to solve them in advance. It is an approach that I continue to adopt in all the projects I pursued. Besides, meeting the other participants was very inspiring and I really hope to create something together with some of them.

What difficulties did you encounter and how did you overcome those?

The main difficulty was time. Everything took longer than expected, many of the equipment had to be sent from across Europe and even Japan. Eventually we could really start printing in March. Eventually we managed to use the months prior to March well, by organising assemblies and workshops and creating content for once we could start printing.

Can you describe a successful moment? What did it teach you for later steps in your project?

The reactions of people when they see the books are really positive and encouraging. Both people on Lesvos as well as people who have never been here understand what we are doing and appreciate the value of the books. This feedback really made us believe that we are doing something meaningful.

image courtesy of Boomboomtales

What was the biggest surprise you did encounter in the project?

Every time somebody comes with a new idea for a publication we are kind of surprised, by how many good ideas exist and how many possibilities there are. We are so proud and happy with what we created, and the collaboration with groups and people was better than we ever imagined.

Do you see a further development of your project in the future?

Together with a group of activists and artists we are working on a project that includes a series of workshops related to arts, risograph printing and media production. We want to collaborate with more diverse people, from Lesvos and elsewhere, and keep printing beautiful books.