The Miami-based Islandia Journal offers a refreshing and strange look at some of Florida’s more eccentric angles and anomalies through the hazy, sun-drenched, and mysterious lenses of local visual artists and writers. It is focused around the paranormal, weird, historical, and uniquely Floridian. The 8 ½’’ x 5 ½’’ limited-run journal’s first issue was published in spring 2021 and is a delight to hold, read, and flip through even if you’re unfamiliar with the idiosyncratic nature of life in and around Florida.
The periodical begins with a sincere and storied indigenous land acknowledgement which also acts as a kind of preface, setting the stage for the reader in a way that suggests Florida/Islandia has a complicated and deep history of human habitation.
Islandia acknowledges Florida and the Caribbean are the ancestral homes of a myriad indigenous tribes including (but not limited to): the Miccosukee, Seminole, Calusa, Muspa, Tequesta, Timiqua, various Arawak and Calib tribes including the Taino and Lucaya.Land acknowledgement in The Islandia Journal: A (Sub)Tropical Periodical
What does Miami look like after ten years of sea level rise? A couple spreads of beautiful watercolor paintings by Raymond Fort help the reader visualize this uncomfortable but seemingly unstoppable imminent-future waterworld scenario.
The paintings–which appear to show impossible geometric buildings and structures floating off in distant bodies of water–are loose, a bit abstract, colorful, and calming.
What is hopefully a recurring segment in Islandia is the section devoted to “Cryptids of the Caribbean”–a reference to cryptozoology and the field of theoretical but unproven and often mythical and strange creatures. Here we are patiently taught about the Chickcharney–an “owl-humanoid creature known for its trickery”. The island on which it haunts, “Andros”, is “the largest, but least populated Bahamian island… Andros is also home to the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center where the U.S. Navy simulates underwater warfare.”
The illustration of the Chickcharney by Miami-based illustrator and printmaker Russel Beans (@are.beans), who also drew the Everglades Griffin cryptid on this issue’s cover, is ominously delightful and thoughtfully detailed.
A very succinct and prideful essay on health and Haitian food by Haitian nutritionist, Olguyne Fernandez-Fraga, called The Haitian Nutritionist is translated into Haitian Creole on it’s opposite page which is a beautiful and fascinating language to see on the printed page.
Gen santye pi dwat pou rive an sante. Manje ou pa Bezwen foto-pafe pou konsidere li kom an sante. / There are more straightforward paths to a healthy lifestyle. Your food doesn’t need to be picture-perfect to be considered healthy.Excerpt in Haitian Creole and English of The Haitian Nutritionist by Olguyne Fernandez-Fraga in The Islandia Journal: A (Sub)Tropical Periodical
Amongst more essays, poems, and illustrations is a very old and storied flag of Fernandina Beach that extends across a full spread and supplements, both visually and literally, a story about the region’s tumultuous and dense history of colonization. It also introduces a mythical con-artist anti-hero figure from the 1800’s that feels uniquely Floridian.
Themes and tales of the strange, wonderful, and uncertain persist throughout the colorful, eerie, and fascinating 53-page journal including a full spread illustrated map of author Karen Russell’s Swamplandia! by Marcella May.
For more information on Islandia including purchasing this or future issues (or re-issues), visit their website islandiajournal.com or check out their instagram @islandiajournal where they are very active and tuned-in to the Florida weird.