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Arts & Culture: On feminist publishing and hope as a feminist tool — an interview with Gantala Press

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In a world that does its best to silence women’s voices, Gantala Press, an independent Filipina feminist press, rises to create a space centered on the stories of women from the margins.

Rooted in activism and their participation in people’s movements, Gantala was born from the knowledge that no such feminist space existed in the Philippines, and sought to fill those gaps. They publish the stories of women from the basic sectors; peasant women, workers, the urban poor, and donate their earnings to the dispossessed, the victims of state violence, and the long-silenced communities from the margins where these stories can be found.

​​Established in 2015, Gantala began when founder Faye Cura finished her collection of poems and found that there was no women’s press to publish it. She then asked her Facebook friends if anyone was interested in forming such a collective with her, and called for a meeting with everyone to start planning future possible projects and publications.

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Seeing as women’s stories are often underrepresented, Gantala Press sought to fill those gaps and create a feminist space in which these narratives can be fostered. Their development as an activist press was grown from their work and education with the women of people’s organizations, like the Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women, and it is this work that influences the books they produce.

“Being socially engaged has helped us continue our work despite the pandemic; there are just so many issues to confront and to document in our books,” said Cura.

It is also this that has lent itself to the choice to become an independent press.

“Independent presses are quicker to respond to issues than mainstream presses where the process of creating a book can take years. Independent presses usually do not publish mainly for profit, but for various reasons — aesthetic/artistic; educational; or to promote certain causes/for activism. Hence, there is more freedom to tackle sensitive issues, even those that may not be ‘commercially viable,’” said Cura.

Gantala Press recently released an anthology of comics on indigenous women activists from around the world, launched in a feminist conference in Germany. The book also included comics on Mother Leticia Bula-at, and portrayed how she and the Kalinga and Bontoc people stopped the building of the Chico River Dam in the 1970s, which Gantala did in collaboration with the artist Nina Martinez and in consultation with Innabuyog-Kalinga.

“I think that these comics illustrate the hope and power carried by the people’s struggle, which is relevant especially now that another Marcos and another Duterte hold the top positions in the government,” said Cura.

Through documenting this hope found in women’s resistance, Gantala Press continues to make a space that contributes to revolutionary change.

“Women are often ignored in discussions in many spaces and platforms: in media, in school curricula, in books, art exhibitions, in government, in workplaces, at home. They are ridiculed and discriminated against. They are victims of gender-based violence. Having feminist spaces like Gantala contributes to a change in culture that would hopefully lead to eventually overcoming systems of power that oppress not only Filipino women but men (and other genders) as well,” said Cura.

The press was also set on creating a live feminist space pre-pandemic. When asked for its possibility in the future, Cura responded:

“One of the things I learned from the conference I mentioned earlier is that hope can be a feminist tool. We can always hope.”

For more information on Gantala Press, access their website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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