Maria Qamar’s art is aimed at a very specific audience. Born in Pakistan and having moved to Ontario, Canada, Qamar explores (and oftentimes, comments on) Desi culture—a term for the cultures and products of the Indian subcontinent or South Asia and their diaspora.
Known for her satirical commentary on the hybridization of South Asian and Canadian culture, her art tackles subjects like racism, body shaming, classism, and chauvinism. These subjects are treated with a grain of salt, or perhaps, a dash of spice, through clever utilization of pop art aesthetic.
“Hot chai, cold revenge,” reads one caption alongside a comics-inspired character, “spicy food is for spicy girls,” reads another. “Pop art is very fun in nature, but [my work] does talk about a lot of heavy things,” Qamar touched on the ironic nature of her work in an interview with Vice.
“The focus is on my community,” she further explained. “I’m not talking to a white audience. I’m talking to people like me, so we can talk about these issues in our community. When you do that and when enough people around you start doing that, you find that everyone else around you starts listening in. It puts the pressure on other folks to learn more about us, which is an added bonus, but the point of the work isn’t to appeal to anybody outside of who I’m speaking to.”
But with tens of thousands of fans on Instagram alone, it’s clear that her art resonates with many people.