Gundi in hindi translates to female gangster or thug. The outspokenness and gritty nature of such women inspired independent art director Natasha Sumant’s initiative. Gundi Studios is a space where Natasha makes art, profiles strong women, sometimes makes art with them. Representing the South Asian female community, she is set to create a space that idolises those who have the courage defy deep rooted patriarchal norms and inspire the others.
Born in Kerala and raised all over the country, Natasha’s nomadic family lifestyle as a child has given her plenty of inspiration and ideas to work with. The only constant being art, her childhood was immersed in all its forms like painting, dancing and creative writing. She even tried her hand at sewing but learned that her creative inclination lay in ‘fashion related things’. She started Gundi after her last project, Orientation Collective, fell apart. ‘I was tired of seeing representations of meek south Asian women in the media and decided to create my own character and space for girls like me.’ Free from client constraints, it is her outlet to explore how feminism manifests itself in the lives of south Asian women all over the world.
What started out as a patch of an embroidered version of the name loosely pinned to a vintage jacket, the merchandise now extends to jackets, sweatshirts, accessories; and pants and dresses in the making. Gundi’s conception was organic yet decisive in its ethos. ‘I always oriented towards typography, so I wanted to be thoughtful about how to created the patch. I did it patch only because I didn’t have money or technical resources to do clothes from scratch. And I chose Zardosi because it is a type of embroidery that is present in saris and burkhas that are traditionally either seen to supress or mask women. Even though zardosi is made by men, I wanted to juxtapose that idea and to repurpose it with typography.’ Majority of the street-inspired merchandise is homegrown and comes from all-female NGOs, and she is personally involved in every step of the production process. Gundi has seen collaborations with young artists such as Monica Dogra, who instantly responded to its bold aesthetic and an even stronger message. Natasha has also worked on other artworks and installations such as Bollywood stereotypes—can you cook? at the Anti Art Fair. The former sheds light on how society measures women by domestic achievements. Learning about new aspects layered in feminism everyday, she aims for women, more than anything, to step out and have more discussions with Gundi as the medium.
Text Garima Gupta