Last February, Maria Qamar transformed her love of drawing from a hobby into a career. And boy, are we glad she did.
It all started when the Pakistan-born artist—who had been unhappily working as a copywriter—posted a photo of an illustration she had drawn depicting an Indian “aunty” with a speech bubble that read, “I burnt the rotis” on her Instagram account @Hatecopy.
Her work was instantly noticed, and as she continued to post pop-art style memes inspired by stereotypical Indian soap opera moments, her following increased exponentially, and she noticed a community growing among those who shared similar experiences growing up as a South Asian immigrant (aka “desi”). The @Hatecopy brand has since evolved to include merchandise such as T-shirts, tableware, and totes, all featuring her clever memes. (Shop the collection here.)
We caught up with the 25-year-old social media sensation, and she shared with us the inspiration behind her artwork and gave us a sneak peek at the projects she has on the go. Happy reading!
S/: What first inspired you to start creating these pop-art-meets-Indian-soap-opera-themed memes?
Maria Qamar: I had always looked for ways to mesh my ethnic identity with my diasporic one. It’s one of those things that makes me stand out from the generation before me and at the same time bond with others just like me.
Tell me about your portrayal of what Vogue India referred to as the “stereotypical image of a ‘desi aunty’”.
It’s a stereotype perpetuated in soap operas I grew up watching; the plotting and interference of an aunty is what made the dramas what they were. Our real lives mimic dramas to a less hyperbolic extent.
Why did you choose the name “Hatecopy?” What does it mean?
I created Hatecopy when I was working in the advertising industry as a copywriter who didn’t really enjoy copywriting all that much. Funny how that worked out.
I understand your work often makes a statement about cultural appropriation. Where do you think the boundary is between cultural appreciation and appropriation?
If you are invited to an Indian wedding, you may wear a saree. If you are invited to a Halloween party, you may not wear a saree. It’s rocket science, I know.
You have such a large following on Instagram! How has the platform helped you foster a sense of community around your work, and helped you grow as an artist?
The community that supports my work, to me, feels like thousands of siblings I never had. We crack inside jokes, share stories, and sometimes even argue over memes. We’re like one big family. As an artist I create certain pieces solely for the purpose of posting online.
Why did you decide to work in the pop art style?
I’ve always drawn for the purpose of documenting my surroundings. I like to create, alter, and reminisce on scenarios through comics and have been doing so since I was young. I don’t know any better way to express my thoughts.
Tell me about your approach of using humour to address the experience of South Asian immigrants.
I talk about things I witness, or have experienced first hand. I don’t draw for the purpose of being relatable, it just comes with the territory.
How has your work evolved since you started out?
For one, it’s not on lined paper anymore. It’s much more colourful, expressive and clean. I hope for it to evolve visually as I progress.
What piece are you most proud of?
Where do you typically work from?
I work from my home in which I’ve created a small studio space to paint out of. I don’t need a lot of physical space to work; just a lot of mental clarity.
What projects do you currently have on-the-go?
Currently, I am juggling a thousand projects, from writing a book, to prepping for an exhibit, to exploring new and better wearable merch for the store, to growing the Hatecopy team. It’s a non-stop 24/7 thing for me.
I’ve got a few exhibits under my belt, but I would love to have more. Currently I am having an exhibit in London, but would love to take my work to Mumbai and New York.
Now, a bit more about you. How would you describe personal style?
I wear a lot of black, so my focus is always on the silhouette. I’ve been wearing a lot of Uniqlo lately. I’m also really into Spanx. Not because of their body suits, but for their tights & workout wear. It’s the most comfortable blend of fabrics I’ve ever worn.
Coffee or tea?
I love a solid cup of chai. But I’m a bit of an iced coffee nut.
Go-to summer cocktail?
I can make the best daal. Even better than my mom’s. I’ve been tweaking the recipe for years.
I am obsessed with Don Don Izakaya. It’s Japanese cuisine beyond sushi and sashimi. It’s loud, smoked, salted, spicy, fried, delicious.
I like all Chuck Klosterman’s novels. I also love reading books from my long lost siblings Aziz [Ansari] & Mindy [Kaling].
I’ve always been a fan of Studio Ghibli. Spirited Away has been one of those movies that really stuck with me through the ages. I feel like it’ll be a movie I’d watch with my kids someday.
A lot of Kaytranada.
I don’t make bucket lists because I’m trying to be a little more spontaneous than that. For now, I’m hoping to visit South Korea and see one of my favourite K-Pop groups perform.
Photography by Brian B. Bettencourt/Getty Images