Fonds RBSC-ARC-1845 - Anna Banana fonds

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Anna Banana fonds

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Physical description

28.47 m of textual records and other materials.

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Name of creator

(24 February 1940 – Present)

Biographical history

Anna Banana was born on 24 February 1940 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She is an artist known for her participation in the Mail Art network, performance art, writing, and work as a small press publisher, producing the almost 50 year running Banana Rag, VILE magazine from 1974-1984, International Art Post, and various artistamp editions. She has lived in and operated out of Victoria, San Fransisco, Vancouver and the Sunshine coast. She has also toured internationally on a number of occasions, predominantly through Europe and North America. She herself considered her work to be “a costume and the creation of a character,” and called herself an “incurable collector.”

After graduating in 1957 from Victoria High School, she attended the University of British Columbia from 1958-1963 and graduated with an elementary academic teaching certificate. After this, she taught for five years, in public schools for two and then at the Vancouver New School for three. At Vancouver’s New School she was first called Anna Banana by students, and she noted that the name stuck after falling into a crate of bananas at a party. In the late 1960s she became disillusioned with her life as a wife, mother and teacher, and relocated to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California for a period of 18 months, where she learned massage.

After her stint at Esalen, she moved back to Victoria, supporting herself through massage workshops and batik making. In August 1971 she “went bananas” and declared herself the Town Fool of Victoria, continuing to hold this post until 1972. During this period she would often go to schools with painted rocks and set up voluntary arts and crafts instruction for students, under the Anna Banana pseudonym. She would issue degrees in “Bananology” (i.e. the art of being bananas) to participants, and this continued for many years to come. During this period she wrote an article for Maclean’s magazine which describes her rejection of consumer culture in these years, living in a cabin with no running water for $35 a month, on an income of around $25 a week. She began to publish the Banana Rag newsletter in 1971 in order to contact, involve and inform the general public about her aims and activities in Victoria at the time. One of these reached some Vancouver based artists who had begun to correspond within the network, and Banana was quickly introduced to the International Mail Art Network by artist Gary Lee Nova (AKA Art Rat), beginning her decades long engagement with mail art. Her first requests were that mail artists send her banana related items, including images and general information – of which she collected more than 1200 over the course of her career. Networkers who provided these items were awarded a Masters Degree in Bananology and a note.

By August 1973 she had moved to San Francisco, landing a job at the SF Bay Guardian. In her time in San Fransisco she organized the first Banana Olympics in 1975, explored performance art alongside a number of Dadaist compatriots, and published VILE magazine in February 1974 in response to a comment made in FILE magazine saying that mail art was “Quik-Kopy Krap”. VILE would eventually have 7 editions, with Bill Gaglione, her partner at the time, publishing 3 of them, culminating in a special issue called About VILE in 1983. Anna and Bill Gaglione would go on to tour Europe with their “Futurist Sound” performances, from September to December 1978.

In the mid-1970’s, Anna began to create her own stamps, in response to a mail art invitation. When, in the 1980s, she wanted to begin monetizing her activities, she requested that networkers pay for her Banana Rag subscription in order to maintain contact with her. By 1986, she began to look to stamps as a way of increasing the income generated from her activities, producing multiple editions of various artistamps, into the mid-2000s, under the issuing authority of a fictitious “Bananaland”. While working in production department of Intermedia Press from 1983 to 1985, she learned full-colour printing, which she would go on to use to issue International Art Post, which ran from 1988 to 2011.

In 1981 she moved back to Vancouver, British Columbia, around the same time divorcing Bill Caglione (an event which she would call the “Banana Split”). In 1980 she held the 2nd Banana Olympics in Surrey, British Columbia, and in 1985 she legally changed her name to Anna Banana. This period stands out for her production of artistamps, although she remained an avid networker and performance artist. She curated performance art shows such as Artropolis, and engaged in performances such as“Wild Women” and “World Series”, as well as other performance art shows on tours through North America and Europe.

In the 1990s, she began the Special Research Insitute, where she performed goofy dada-esque research projects, such as “Proof Positive That Germany Is Going Bananas” (1993), “A Survey of Banana Culture in Victoria BC” and “But Is It Art?” (2011). She led the institute under the name Dr. Anna Freud Banana. In 2001, she began creating Artist Trading Cards, and would continue to trade these at various events throughout the 2000s.

Anna moved to the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia in 1995, where she currently lives.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds contains materials arising from Anna Banana’s activities in the Mail Art network, her collecting of published materials and artworks, her performance art, exhibitions of her work and others, promotion of her activities, the production of various publications including VILE magazine, and the creation of visual art including artist trading cards, artistamps, collage, drawings and paintings. Materials were created in Victoria and Vancouver from 1964-1973, San Francisco from 1973 to 1982, Vancouver from 1982 to 1995 and the Sunshine Coast from 1995 to 2020, as well as on various tours and travels throughout this whole period. Materials are often focused on the neodadaist movements of San Francisco in the 1970s and beyond, as well as involvement in the Mail Art Network and performance art, and Anna’s personal and professional life.

The fonds is divided into 10 series: Mail art and correspondence, Interactive/performance art, Anna Banana’s publications, Artworks, Artist Trading Cards, Artistamps, Exhibitions, Photographs, Press, Collected publications. Records include textual materials, particularly letters, postcards, books, periodicals, zines, and other published materials; graphic materials such as envelope art, photographs, collage, xerox art, ink and pencil drawings, and watercolour; and other items such as CDs, DVDs, and various artefacts.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Acquired from Anna Banana in 2021.


Intervention by the archivist was required, as boxes often contained random assortments of records. Mail art and correspondence series was generally cohesive, but the rest could be found dispersed throughout their original storage locations. Arrangement was done on the basis of Anna’s main activities. Further arrangement notes available on a series and subseries basis.

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Associated materials

Artworks and material exhibited by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria’s 2015 exhibit Anna Banana: 45 years of fooling around with A. Banana are in the collection of the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery (UBC). Audio-visual materials from the Anna Banana fonds are also at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.

Related materials


General note

Please note that the contents of this fonds may be uncomfortable or offensive to some researchers. Some files include nazi symbolism, gore, sexual materials, and other explicit materials.

General note

Note that file 198-02 is a skipped number, and there is no file associated with this number.

Physical description

37 Binders
15 Watercolours
19 CDs
14 Artefacts
1 Tape
2 Vinyl Records (45)
705 Photographs: black and white, and colour prints, polaroids negative and positive film.


A portion of the fonds has undergone treatment for mold and mildew. For some files, some odour remains, but the material is stable.

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Finding aid created by Matthew White, July 2023

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