AAPI Voices: Roshan Ganu

This May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month! All month, we’ll be highlighting the incredible contributions of the AAPI artists in our community. Recently, we sat down with several AAPI members of the MN Opera family to talk about how their AAPI identities have impacted their opera careers and what they would like to see change in the opera industry with regard to AAPI representation.   

Roshan Ganu is a mixed media storyteller and comic artist originally from Goa, India, now based in Minneapolis. She has conceptualized and art directed stories for the Minneapolis Institute of Art and was a part of the MNiatures cohort of 2020-21 at the Minnesota Opera. Ganu is a grantee of the Next Step Fund 2021 by MRAC and, as a co-founder of the zine space ‘Aapli Library’, has been an awardee of the Artists Respond: Combatting Social Isolation grant by Springboard For The Arts. As a comic artist she actively teaches comic making workshops with a focus on personal narratives at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and at Aapli Library. Her work has been recognized by the Star Tribune, MPLSArt and SOTA podcast and has been exhibited at galleries such as Soo Visual Arts Center, Artistry-Bloomington, ArtReach St.Croix, among others.

Photo (c) Samantha Rickner

1. In what ways has your AAPI identity impacted your career journey in opera? 

I am not sure about AAPI, but I can speak to my roots of being from a hybrid identity from Goa and Maharashtra and living through 3 different countries. Being a brown person has made me feel so powerful and it has been a reminder of the beautiful beaches and the shade of the tall coconut trees and stubby mango trees I grew up around. This hybrid identity exposed me to multiple languages and has let me explore new cultures with tremendous openness. I’ve only worked on one opera so far but my visual art work embraces the power that lies in hybridity.


2. Did you have any AAPI role models or mentors when you were starting your career? What qualities did you admire about them?

I grew up in India during the television boom and the internet boom through my teenage years. I thoroughly enjoyed viewing my everyday life and context reflected on national television. Most impactful would be Malgudi Days, Nukkad, Buniyad and more recently Sacred Games, Gullyboy and Bombay Begums, among others. As for role models, I look up to women leaders who speak fearlessly: Sudha Murthy, Kamala Harris, Malala Yousafzai, Benazir Bhutto, and Ilhan Omar.


3. What changes would you like to see in the opera industry, specifically in relation to the AAPI community? 

It would be great to have more collaborations with practicing visual or cross-disciplinary artists in order to bring their work to the stage in collaboration with voice and music. Not just on stage with the voice, but into the ‘meaning’ of the opera. This includes AAPI artists but also other diverse narratives.


To learn more about Ms. Ganu, please visit her website and follow her on Instagram. You can also check out a performance of her and Ritika Ganguly‘s opera Xylem, commissioned as part of MN Opera’s MNiatures below.

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