Hot Chai, Cold Revenge: Maria Qamar’s Original Pop Art

Maria Qamar, AKA @Hatecopy, is known for her pop-art aesthetic. Aimed at a South Asian audience, tackling subjects like immigration, integration, and cultural identity, these subjects hit close to home. Qamar, a first-generation Canadian from a traditional South Asian family (her mother is Indian and her father Bangladeshi), moved to Canada at the age of nine, and endured bullying and racism.

Her experiences were later translated into her artwork, which in and of itself reflects her hybrid identity, which her style been influenced by both the work of Roy Lichtenstein as well as Indian soap operas.

But her work doesn’t only reflect her personal experiences. They resonate with the Desi community at large, particularly the second generation. Through it, she explores 21st-century Desi life and the challenges of being a South Asian millennial.

“I’m an extremely emotional person,” admitted Qamar in an interview with the Cut. “It’s why I gravitate so much towards Indian soap operas. The tears and the crying and the drama in my work is also inspired by Roy Lichtenstein.”

According to Qamar, both Indian soap operas and Roy Lichtenstein’s art use the exact same expressions. “The tears, the crying. The obsessing over revenge or love or whatever it is. The emotion is still there,” she explains.

“The look is still there, even though it comes from two different parts of the world,” notes Qamar. “I’m neither here nor there. I’m not either Desi or Western, I’m both.”

But though Qamar’s work acknowledges the hardship of being an immigrant, her work is sprinkled with humor. “Obviously there are parts of our culture that are deep and dark and that evoke rage,” she says. “And then there are certain parts that are just silly. I like that it doesn’t have to make you cry all the time. That’s the motive of what I do. You can have fun.”