Rachel Funari – in Memoriam

Rachel Funari – in Memoriam

Rachel, April 2009. Photo by Michelle Lovi

Rachel Funari went missing while backpacking in Tasmania and was last seen on March 3 2011. Given the rugged wilderness area she was in and the searches conducted she is, in all likelihood, dead. More information here. Most recent police update. But she is more than one event, stuff Rachel did.

I first met Rachel at the Banana (Canberra, Australia). The Banana was at S&E’s place and was a large, yellow corner couch that could envelop a dozen people with ease. The Banana was an institution, after a pleasant night out with friends someone would say “Banana?” to which the reply was invariably Banana. Towards the end of my degree the Banana was often where I would be, for tea, coffee, comics and politics. E introduced me to great indy comics like Dykes to Watch Out For, Joe Sacco’s Palestine and what felt like half the back catalogue of Fantagraphics.

And it was on the Banana that I met Rachel Funari. She had a prophet-like glow to her eyes and E was so excited to finally introduce us. Rachel had the insane passion to start a magazine. I was bowled over by Rachel’s determination, passion and how she was going to make it happen come hell or high water. Her own lip magazine.

I was pursing the mad passions of indy comics while Rachel pursued her indy publishing path and I became one of many people she drew into the magazine. I became a staff writer amongst other things, writing an insane cooking column I’m a little bit embarrassed to think about – from crepes with stewed apples, to a student food survival special that started with tinned mackerel and soba and finished with 2 minute noodles with peanut butter and sweet chilli sauce. I wasn’t the most involved by a long way, but I prided myself on being a ‘go to guy.’ If she asked I’d be reliable, I’d deliver. If I could I’d give her want she needed and if not I’d tell her up front – be it a burly girl to carry boxes, a musical performance, an article or opinions on content.

While scrabbling around, trying to create while going from one burn out job to another, I felt less of a failure to see “Staff Writer, lip magazine” in my line of credits. It helped me feel believed in during long cold days when I felt like I was nothing.

I remember long indy publishing conversations – the horror and money drain of newsagency syndication and exploration of alternative distribution chanels. My continued involvement with indy comics gave me a different body of knowledge to draw on. Rachel was a terrible business-woman in some ways… I remember her saying “What’s a wholesale price?” followed by “But retail price and print costs are the same, we’re a not for profit!” and me almost swallowing my tongue in shock.

I remember saying “I’ve called 20 high schools and sent samples and no one wants to subscribe because of the nipple tweaking woman in agony/ecstasy that is always at the top of our sexuality columns.” But Rachel would not cave no matter how I argued – that nipple tweaking woman was too important to her and those five subscriptions would not have saved the print version of lip anyway.

Rachel had something much, much more important than business sense. She created a space where young women felt valued, included and their minds could chase the far horizons. She captured brilliant people to support her mission (like the indomitable Michelle Lovi who has now founded Odyssey Books). At 21 I sometimes felt like one of the grumpy old ladies and I think of how much it would have meant to me when I was 14 to have someone in publishing say “You are smart and important and we need you on our editorial group.” Rachel pushed for a sense of creative collective and I was continually astonished by what she was able to achieve across so many levels. Through sheer passion, through inclusiveness, through smarts and politics, shanghai-ing people to do stuff and a hell of a lot of grit.

I liked being in the trenches with Rachel. There are many who can claim a closer tie, but I loved having her as a comrade… just knowing she was out there doing stuff. I had always expected in years to come to see her name popping up around awesome things. Rachel was supposed to be one of those people I could read about in the newspapers or popping up as the head of some organisation and I could say “I remember when…”

And Rachel was on that path, she had handed the reigns of lip over to a new generation and was flying into new horizons. And it fucking sucks that I don’t get to see what she would do next.

It fucking sucks that she is dead and it fucking sucks that her family do not get a body to weep over. But at least she lived. And at least she did things she set her heart on. And at least she gave a shit and helped others give a shit and more than that, helped people DO.

And I take comfort that she was part of a cohort, the things she cared about are not dead. lip lives. Women who are smart, active and have voice live. I think of feminist women of my cohort that contributed to lip (either passing through or deeply in the heart of it) who kick arse. I think of the wonderful women and men I have seen come together through the long days of searching through the Facebook page. And how people have risen to the challenge of this enormous sadness.

I am sad she is gone, but happy I am part of her extended community, and while I don’t get to look at her new achievements and say “I remember when…” I am glad that there are other wonderful, brilliant people of our cohort I can admire from across the seas and say “I remember.”

12 thoughts on “Rachel Funari – in Memoriam

  1. This is really lovely Liz. I don’t think I would ever have achieved many of the things I’ve done, if not for the friendship and opportunities Rachel extended me in lip’s early days. Her enthusiasm and courage were contagious, and we had so many fun adventures trekking around the east coast of Australia following the indy arts festival circuit. We’d come home bursting with passion and new ideas. I’m really going to miss Rachel. Thanks for sharing your memories here.

  2. Thank you :-)

    @michelle You two were quite the team. I hope I can read/hear of some of your adventures together :-) The last time a dear activist friend died all these folks wrote up stories and thoughts and emotions and it was so wonderful to see all the different angles. I still look back at it around anniversaries or when I miss her. So much of life is in the details – I hope the facebook page becomes that repository of linked shared spaces and stories.

  3. Beautifully put Liz. Lip is her legacy in so many ways. I think as her little sister, the fact of having Rachel’s footsteps to follow in resonates with me especially. Not to mention that I of course got dragged into writing something back in the day. My heart goes out to all the women in this world who also found a big sister in Rachel. She pushed me to do things I never thought I’d be capable of, and I’ll never stop regretting not knowing what would have come next.

  4. I’ll keep this short. I lost my mother (suddenly) about 5 years ago, you’re never prepared to lose someone close. Sometimes, I ponder the day when I might lose my brother, gf or anyone else close to me. It terrifies me. Losing my mother was the first time I lost someone really close. I never knew that when she got on that plane, that was the last time I would see her. My deepest condolences to you and her family.

  5. @Nicole – I cannot thank you enough for going to Tasmania and bearing witness for us in such a gracious and loving way. What family does makes such a difference.

    @Michael Thanks for your condolences and sharing. Loosing close family is always so hard. I lost my mother slowly, which means time enough to say goodbye and time enough to feel like I didn’t say goodbye properly. If I could chose I don’t know which one I would pick, both ways suck so much! At least there are many ways to say goodbye (it’s a comfort that my mother lives on in a website http://aplaceof.info/margaret/) and when I publish my first book I can keep my promise and dedicate it to her.

  6. Lucia Anselmo sent me a private message and has given me permission to share it. A celebrations of a person should come from a collage of voices. Lucia wrote (emphasis in the message mine):

    “I read your piece on Rachel and found it to be very moving. You really nailed it on the head, she did live. She lived life on her terms and no one else’s. She was one of those rare individuals to truly live life to the fullest. She was deeply loved and deeply missed by all who knew her.”

  7. Dear Liz,

    Reading your article brought tears to our eyes and joy to our hearts. David and I did not realize what an impact Rachel had on so many and we are very proud of her. She always was a loving and giving person and hearing of her accomplishments and positive effect on others is a tribute to her.

    Much love and thanks for your memoriam. Phyllis and David.

  8. Thank you Phyllis and David,

    I’m based in America (Seattle), but will be traveling back to Australia in November if that is at all helpful for any logistics. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help.

    Much love and thanks in return.

  9. Thank you so much, Liz, for your wonderful remembrance. Back in New York City, Gigi, my Maltese daughter, and I are comforted to know that Rachel had a good life in Australia and many caring friends, and that she brought joy to the lives of so many others. I met Rachel when she was just a day old and we felt close, even when we lived far apart, her whole life. We had a special connection that spanned our vast age difference–a testament to Rachel’s ability to find what is true and best in every relationship and to give to the people in her life as much as she got from them. When Gigi came along, she fit perfectly on Rachel’s lap and two families became one.

    Wendy Schwartz

  10. I just found this article. Thank you for posting it. I’ve been out of touch with lip magazine since I went overseas in 2007, but it has always had a special place for me. Rachel was a great mentor to me as a starting out writer, and she always encouraged me to take on opportunities whether it was through lip or other publications. She always looked at my ideas for the magazine in a positive light, and gave great feedback. Although I didn’t live in Canberra, I always felt part of the lip team even through the many emails. I can’t quite believe that she is no longer with us it seems quite surreal. Something that I will always carry with me is her passion and to fight for something that she believed in.

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