In an age where diversity is routinely coming under attack, it’s pretty cool to see North America’s South Asian diaspora flourishing. And it’s not only because of celebrities like Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari: in the past few years, pop artists like Babbu the Painter and Toronto’s own Maria Qamar (aka Hatecopy) are equally responsible for presenting catharsis and cultural criticism in the context of humour and art. We caught up with the Instagram-famous Qamar, who has been turning out razor-sharp-witted prints from her base of Mississauga, Ont. for years, about her art and inspirations, her new book Trust No Aunty, and the importance of being authentic in the digital age.
There are so many layers to your work, from its artistic and cultural merit to its social commentary. How would you describe what you do?
It’s pop art. Pop art by definition is art that reflects/critiques society and pop culture. I reflect on my culture as well as the American mass media’s interpretation of it.
How did you come up with the name “Hatecopy”?
I used to work as a copywriter for many advertising agencies. It was my way to sell myself to companies as the writer who didn’t care for it.
What got you started with your art? Was it a hobby or passion you decided to pursue, or have you always wanted to be an artist/entrepreneur?
I had wanted to be an artist since I was born; it was the only thing I loved, and still love.
What inspires you and your art?
I’m inspired by everything all the time; I document whatever happens around me into art. It’s my way of keeping a diary.
What kind of response have you gotten to your work, either online or in person?
I’ve gotten a lot of feedback over the years, and my favourite kind is from students; young girls in university and college who are looking to explore and express themselves through the arts. Most of the time, I end up learning from them instead of the other way around.
You just about released your first book, Trust No Aunty: what prompted you to create it, and what can we expect from it?
Trust No Aunty is a little bit of everything; from recipes, to career choices and a little bit of drama. It’s a book full of advice I probably would have wanted when I was younger. It’s a sarcastic and satirical look into growing up in the West as a desi girl.
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to work at the intersection of art, humour and creative expression like you do?
Be genuine. Sounds cheesy, but life is more than likes and retweets. There’s nothing worse than forced funny.
What is something you’ve learned from your experiences as @hatecopy?
Be honest in whatever you do. It really is the best policy. Is there anything you wish more people knew about you, your art, or your intentions with your art? I’m very shy, and it’s because my art comes from a very personal place. I tend to hide behind the canvas most days.
Let’s end with a wild card question: do you have a favourite out of your own illustrations?
Of course! I love Elaichi. She’s my favourite.