Building the Future of Drag, Art and Activism: Durga Gawde

Hi Durga! Tell us a little bit about yourself and your story.

Durga Gawde: I am a trans non-binary gender fluid human. I was born with a womb and have struggled to feel in sync with the body I was born with. The disassociation I feel came to light during puberty when my breasts developed. Having said that, the above statements only make up a part of my identity even though it may be a major part of my identity, I have worked hard to not let it get in the way of my intelligence or my ambition. My experiences give me a point of view that is unique to me. I see the world in a way that most people do not and that makes me who I am. I am a trained sculptor from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. I have been an activist for the last three and a half years. I came out to be an activist and give voice to the younger version of myself that grew up feeling voiceless. I am an educator and also India's first performing drag king.

What are you creating lately?

Durga Gawde: Through the pandemic I have been connecting with the drag community all over the world and have done 5 online drag shows. Audiences all over the globe have been engaged in these shows and have been focusing on what my drag means to me not just as a performer but also as a fine art sculptor. I have been researching in biology since I was 17 years old and the nature of existence has always intrigued me. Having worked with over 20 types of microscopes and created imagery of various life forms I have focused my energy during this isolated time to make paintings using a medium called 'Tempera'. It uses organic pigments mixed with egg yolk to create images that are reflective of my observations. This is an attempt to contemporize this painting medium from the 12th century and create imagery from my cerebral landscape. These types of images have not been created in this medium through art history.

What challenges did you face when you were first starting out?

Durga Gawde: The challenges for any pioneer no matter the field is always feeling like they are not being understood at the time they see themselves and their intentions clearly. I do not like to ponder on this so I won't focus on this question, I focus on the work that I know and believe is important.

Name 3 things/activities that inspire you the most.

Durga Gawde: I am inspired by athleticism. I have been working on gaining muscle mass during this pandemic and in the last 5 months gained 20kgs in muscle mass. Building up muscle mass has been something that helps with my gender dysphoria and physically working on my health and changing the silhouette of my body has always been a dream of mine which I have now achieved and it inspires me creatively. I also love spending time with my dog, Duke. He is a german shepherd and his happy smiley nature inspires me. I am inspired by the ocean, I have not been close to it in a long while and I miss it and yearn for it everyday.

What are you reading/listening to these days?

Durga Gawde:I have been reading Parmesh Shahani's new book ' Queeristan'

As a creative, what are some lessons you are still learning?

Durga Gawde: I am learning to be patient and kind to myself. My ambition and desire to be seen can force me to be hard on myself.

What are some trends you are currently seeing in drag that you love and hate?

Durga Gawde: I respect what every drag artist puts out. It takes courage and I am no one to judge it. Just grateful to be a witness.

Are you looking to collaborate with creatives in a particular field? If yes, how do they reach out to you?

Durga Gawde: Collaborations are always welcome. I have collaborated with individuals, brands and corporates over the last few years. They usually reach out to me through Instagram i.e. @durgagawdestudio. I believe that there is always a way to collaborate when there is mutual respect no matter the field and no matter the medium.

Where do you see the future of drag, art and activism heading towards in India the next few years?

Durga Gawde: I honestly do not know and do not want to assume or expect anything. I am enjoying creating history and knowing that I am doing so by being authentically me and letting my creative expression take me wherever I am headed.