Having born in Pakistan and moved to Ontario, Canada at the age of nine, artist and author Maria Qamar is known for her satirical commentary on the hybridization of South Asian and Canadian culture. Now based in Toronto, her witty commentary on Desi culture (a term for the cultures and products of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia and their diaspora), has resulted in quite a large fanbase, both online and offline.
Using pop art aesthetic, her art tackles themes surrounding her experiences of racism, body shaming, classism, and chauvinism. “The focus is on my community,” she explained in an interview with Vice. “I’m not talking to a white audience. I’m talking to people like me, so we can talk about these issues in our community. When you do that and when enough people around you start doing that, you find that everyone else around you starts listening in. It puts the pressure on other folks to learn more about us, which is an added bonus, but the point of the work isn’t to appeal to anybody outside of who I’m speaking to.”
“Pop art is very fun in nature, but [my work] does talk about a lot of heavy things, so it’s also people who have topics they want to discuss but don’t really know-how,” she added. “It’s across generations.”
Indeed, humor is Qamar’s weapon of choice when tackling heavy loaded issues. Her book, Trust No Aunty (which has won the 2018 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for humor), is an illustrated “survival guide” that aims at dealing with overbearing “Aunties,” whether they’re family members, annoying neighbors, or just some random women throwing black magic your way.
With almost 200k followers on Instagram, you’d want to join in the hype.