Not Sari: Exploring the South Asian Diaspora Experience Through Humour
By Maya Acharya
Pranavi Suthagar is a 21-year-old designer, artist and creator of Not Sari, the website and instagram art account that explores South Asian diaspora experiences through tongue-in-cheek illustrations, collages and mixed media. She loves dogs, Drake and literally anything mango flavored. She also recently launched her online store (complete with must-have ‘Chai or Die’ enamel pins), which has been overwhelmed with demand and support. We had the chance to ask Pranavi a few questions about herself and her work.
Why do you enjoy making art?
Since I was young, I’ve always enjoyed creating art from my days exploring Microsoft Paint (R.I.P) to learning the Adobe Suite; it’s always been a passion of mine. Creating work that connects with others always makes creating art more enjoyable for me; it gives my work a sort of greater purpose and fuels me to create more.
Could you tell us a bit about the piece above that you’ve chosen to feature?
I chose the piece “F*ck a Fork”.
The main idea behind it, and a lot of the work I make, is finding things that most South Asian people can relate to. As someone with many brown friends (from different backgrounds), I’ve always loved how our cultures are all so intertwined by aspects that transcend language. It’s these commonalities I love basing my work off of, because I think what really brings people together is knowing these are things we share and should embrace!
In this piece specifically, I was trying to show how most brown people eat with their hands, and 99% of the time, can agree it just tastes better than using a utensil.
I really love how your illustrations use humour to address for instance experiences of racism or pressures and expectations from aunties, communities, society etc. Could you elaborate on this?
I think it’s important to explore the South Asian diaspora experience because it starts conversations within our community, and outside of it. Especially through light-hearted artworks, I think it opens up a comfortable space where people can have discussions and ask questions. I think I choose to use humour to address these things because I feel when you face such topics with a hostile perspective, it’s hard to open discussions where people feel comfortable sharing their experiences. But when you poke fun at things, it can start deeper and more meaningful conversations that can lead to possible solutions.
I hope people can resonate with my art through connecting with others that share similar experiences, as well as creating a space where brown youth and young adults can just talk about things they might not be able to talk about around family.
In the grander scheme of things, I also want to contribute to the bigger picture, where creators help build a narrative for South Asians growing up in the “western world”, allowing our experiences to be shared, celebrated and understood.
Your aesthetic often includes everyday objects that will likely be familiar to South Asians across the globe - I'm thinking of Rubicon, Ponds etc. What draws you to these objects?
I feel like these things are just icons to many South Asian people, and drawing back to what I aim to achieve with my work – I like creating those moments where people are like “OMG my mom is a die-hard for Ponds cream too!”
Could you tell us a bit about your new online store, and any plans for future projects?
Now that the store is finally open, I plan on continuing to expand my product line, hopefully reaching clothing one day. And in terms of the future, I really want to collaborate with other South Asian artists/ people/ brands that inspire me. Also, hopefully getting some work in art shows to reach an even wider audience!
Visit notsari.com to see more of Pranavi's work and check out her merch