Have you seen the instagram account Gundi Studios? In Hindi, “gundi” means female thug — and since outspoken South Asian women aren’t typically appreciated in South Asian communities, Natasha Sumant (the artist behind Gundi Studios) started the project as a way to celebrate courageous women, and reclaim the term gundi. The art and fashion coming out of Gundi Studios is fantastic, but Natasha’s work is way more than just art — it’s a platform for elevating outspoken South Asian women who have the courage to buck patriarchy, subvert norms, and reclaim their own narratives.
Natasha’s success in creating art that celebrates outspoken South Asian women goes against expectations of South Asian women — so a couple months ago, I reached out to Natasha for an interview for ISAASE’s Be Inspired project. We got to chat about how her art allows her to engage with race, feminism, and empowering South Asian women, about the challenges of having to fight for a career in the arts while growing up in India (and the challenges of working as an artist in the U.S.), what has helped her succeed, and what she wants young South Asian Americans should know. Here are some of my favorite things from our interview…
On not fitting stereotypes:
“People who study art in India are labeled as lazy, or as people who don’t like to study or work hard… people everywhere don’t recognize that intelligence can be exercised in many forms.”
On recognizing where your parents are coming from:
“I want South Asian American kids to forgive their parents a little because their (sometimes) closemindedness comes from a place of fear.”
On how to find your calling:
“There is no substitute for hard work and if [you] are passionate about something… work at it and explore it from every angle [and you] will eventually find [your] voice.”
On the only approval you should seek:
“Success does not mean having a million Instagram followers, it means making something of value to you and only you… that doesn’t need validation from anyone else.”
If you’d like to read, the full interview is here.