Q&AZN: SAD ASIAN GIRLS / by Kathleen Tso

For this month's Q&AZN, we had to spotlight one of our bigger Internet crushes out there. We first discovered Sad Asian Girls (SAG) last year when we were searching online for platforms and allies in the same vein as Banana. The bold illustrations, unwavering point of view and inclusive content sold us in immediately. 

A followback and numerous double taps later, we took our Instagram affair on email and asked to interview the women behind SAG, Olivia Park and Esther Fan.  

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Olivia Park and Esther Fan are founders of Sad Asian Girls,

an alias used to produce activist art projects that revolve around experiences living in Western environments as East-Asian girls.

Heritage: Korean-American and Taiwanese-Canadian, respectively

How did you get SAG started? 

Esther:
 After we uploaded Have You Eaten? We got a lot of feedback from our peers saying they resonated very much with it and we gradually grew a small following; we decided to continue working together to make work that people like us could resonate with.

Olivia: SAG started out of anger and sadness. We try to channel these frustrations into our work, which in turn can become something that like-minded viewers can find solace, solidarity, or entertainment in.

 

How has heritage influenced your creativity? Whether it be your style, work ethic, values, etc. 

Olivia: Sometimes it’s easy to say the bad things that come with cultural dualities. I think I’m still lucky in many ways to come from a lovely Korean background. I grew up handling and making so many different cuisines. I ate a lot of Korean and Japanese food growing up in addition to western foods. I grew up wearing both Korean and Western apparel. I celebrated American parties and I also got dol’s (1st birthdays) and janchis (feasts). It’s inevitable that these experiences in life have organically contributed to developing my senses. I am inspired to keep including and preserving these values/traditions into my work, even if it may not necessarily be so blatant to the eye. I think the morals of an artist will one way or another reflect in the work. I find it necessary for influential creatives to have a political stance.

Esther: I’m not sure; I’d never really become familiarized with Taiwanese culture nor Canadian culture (whatever that is). I grew up in a city filled with either recent immigrants (or FOBs, as we called them) or Asian-Canadians, who had very specific personalities/attitudes. I never really fit in with either of these groups, despite many efforts to do so. Maybe it was this confusion and out-of-placeness that’s contributed to my work today. I definitely can say the way my mom raised me was to place emphasis on speed, efficiency, and make sure never to be a burden or inconvenience. That probably has something to do with the way I work too.


What motivates or inspires you to do the work that you do? 

Esther: Closely and constantly interacting with our community and followers always keeps me learning and motivated to make something worthwhile; running a 4000+ member group full of constant social and political discussions has allowed me to unpack and think about a lot of issues Asian people deal with as well as start understanding the needs for this community.

Olivia: It’s all about the people that I speak with and the relationships I’m able to have that keeps me going. I’m not so sure if I would’ve ever connected with the encouraging and inspirational femmes that I have so far if Esther and I didn’t publicize the work we made. Our stories have become a foundation for conversation. Empathy and connection is necessary. No one should have to feel alone.


Why do you think it's important that platforms like Banana and SAG exist?

Olivia: I think the documentation of these  web and print-based projects that we’ve created is critical. Everything we have made and published so far is a mark we’ve made for future folks to look back to and reference. Experiences will repeat themselves as reincarnations. The work of SAG is created and made not only for the present but to live on in the future with a life of its own. I wouldn’t doubt that this applies to Banana magazine too.


Esther: Asians in Western spaces don’t often have a large presence in social/political discourses, although there have been similar movements/platforms to Banana and SAG in the past (I’m thinking about Gidra). I think Asian solidarity maybe often falls short because there are a lot of internal issues to be dealt with within the Asian community that aren’t talked about enough; when people want to be Asian activists their go-to is talking about our relationship with whiteness, rather than our complicity in anti-blackness or colorism in our own communities. I think having platforms for us to begin talking about these things in the first place is a good step; this way we can educate and learn from each other and begin to expand our knowledge and intersectionality.

Who is a Banana you look up to?

Alice Longyu Gao and Elizabeth Wirija


Plug us in- where do we find SAG on the Internet?

@sadasiangirls (Instagram and Twitter)

Sad Asian Girls (Facebook page)

Sad & Asian (Facebook group run by Esther)

www.sadcontent.com (website)