NEW YORK: Canada-based pop artist Maria Qamar’s debut book ‘Trust No Aunty’ is a fascinating read, filled with illustrations.
Excerpts of an email interview with Maria Qamar:
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself, your background?
A: I’m a Toronto-based pop artist. My background is mixed Gujarati and Bihari (by way of Bangladesh). My parents fell in love and had me in Karachi. We moved to Canada shortly after.
Q: How did you start off as an Instagramer?
A: I started my account in college where I used to Instagram daily doodles and pictures of my food. Nothing out of the ordinary. Little by little, my drawings caught more attention than my lunch. The rest is history.
Q: What has inspired you to share your thoughts and views about the diaspora?
A: It’s the only lens I know to document through. I use pop art as a tool to reflect on societal and cultural norms from both the traditional and western perspective, sometimes to expose the hardships young desi men and women face while navigating their new home. Life in the west is often romanticized as a beacon of opportunity, but what is not communicated is the effects of institutionalized racism that keeps us from thriving abroad.
Q: What made you want to write a book about such a topic?
A: Trust No Aunty is a light-hearted book about dodging negative advice from our aunties. However, it includes a great deal of insight from the perspective of a member of the desi diaspora. It is the kind of conversation I wish I had engaged in with an older sister when I was in college; everything from love, career, cuisine and general gup-shup about the way we all push each others’ buttons.
Q: The format of the book is a bit unusual as supposed to a chapter book.
A: Since childhood I’ve always been a visual learner. I was never the type to sit down with a large 400-page novel and digest it in one go. I still read picture books as an adult! This book was designed to be visually stimulating to the reader and can be easily understood and enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age.
Q: Are you planning on writing more books and on what topics?
A: I would love to write a recipe book. I’ve learned that I can cook better than most aunties.
Q: What was your intention behind posting such influential material on Instagram?
A: My intention has always remained the same; to improve my skills in the arts. I’ve always fought to become an artist and it is the only way I know how to live. I appreciate every one who supports my decision and takes inspiration from it. I encourage more girls and boys to pursue the arts, even as a hobby. Our culture is founded upon it, and it is a beautiful way to uplift society.
Q: Is your intention the same or different now that your first book is being published?
A: My intention is the same; if anything it has intensified. I would like to continue holding exhibits around the globe and travelling with my art.
Q: What message are you trying to get across with this book and your Instagram posts?
A: My message is for desi girls back home and abroad to believe in themselves and to continue to pursue their education in the arts.
Q: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for young women in the diaspora?
A: Fight, beti, fight! Never give up. Stop worrying about “log kya kahenge.”