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.”

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