Maria Qamar: The Instagrammer Challenging Her Cultural Expectations

March 1 - Sarah Ashlock

FIRST THOUGHT: School These Days

A 1950s kindergarten report card has resurfaced on the Internet on this fine 2019 day. Why? Because what kindergarteners were graded on back then is astonishing. Kids were expected to master basic skills like reading and writing their first name, knowing their address and counting aloud, as well as knowing their father’s name. (Not their mother’s, of course).

US News said, “Kindergarten today looks like first grade a decade ago.”
Expectations are on the rise, which means mamas are also expected to do more and more, including homework help and a whole week’s work of themed dress-up days. Do you think this increased pressure is a good thing?


I dread the day I have a 12-year-old kid who needs help with geometry or, heck, a third grader who needs help studying for her history exam. (What year did the Revolutionary War start again?) Here’s something you may not have known: While 70 percent of Western mothers believe that “stressing academic success is not good for children,” 0 percent of Asian mothers believe the same.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Maria Qamar, Artist & Owner of Instagram Account @Hatecopy

It takes quite a bit of introspection and bravery to defy the expectations placed on you. For those who have moms in that 0 percent category, cultural and familial beliefs can be some of the most difficult to break.

Artist Maria Qamar is a first-generation Canadian who has done just that, despite her South Asian family’s disappointment. Maria says that pursuing a career in the arts wasn’t just met with uncertainty from her scientist parents, but that it was met with aversion, as it seemed like an unstable pursuit.

Maria figured out a way to use her artistic pursuits for something that might come across as more of a “real job:” advertising. She worked as a copywriter, coming up with jingles for toilet paper and beverages—that is, until she was laid off. The layoff happened to be a blessing, as it gave her space to give art her all.

Certainly, Maria’s art didn’t put her family’s hesitation at bay. She’s not painting tepid landscapes, my friends. Her Instagram account @Hatecopy and website of the same name features a tongue-in-cheek approach to Indian culture, such as the significance of aunties, which she also shares in her book, Trust No Aunty. From the Desi pop art print featuring a woman saying “I burnt the rotis” to a print with the word “dishoom,” (AKA the sound a punch makes in a 1960s Bollywood movie), Maria’s work is unlike anything you’ve probably seen before.

It is, in fact, a movement of sorts. Maria builds on what’s a growing wave of mainstream Desi culture; her work is a cross-generational commentary. Born in Pakistan and raised in Canada, Maria would create small comic panels as a kid to cope with being bullied.

Maria says she didn’t notice the hate coming her way until her pre-teens, when peers would throw things at her and follow her home. She took their discriminatory words to heart, thinking that who she was must have been wrong. Now, Maria’s giving a voice to girls like her, who might love Indian soap operas and eat curry every day. And that’s OK.

At perhaps the core of Maria’s work is the idea that you don’t have to throw away your culture in order to be yourself. There are plenty of ways to feel like you’re pursuing your authenticity while also cherishing who you are and where you came from.


Actress Ann Sweeny said,

"Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you're proud to live."

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