Pakistani-Canadian artist Maria Qamar had no idea, when she moved to Canada at age nine, that ‘aunties’ would not only follow her, but become her claim to fame. For the past year, Maria has been sketching the fire-breathing dragons that every young person in the Indo-Pak subcontinent lives in fear of, and this time, the joke is on the aunties.
Maria says she initially thought her experiences with anxiety-ridden Asian parents and ubiquitous aunties were just her own, till she went to college and found out that the majority of her peers were fellow sufferers. Aunties (middle-aged female relatives or family ‘friends’) have a deadly hold on all social action in India and Pakistan. They feel it’s their right to meddle in everyone’s affairs and that they have carte blanche to ask intrusive personal questions ranging from your height and weight, to bowel movements and marital intentions or fertility problems.
Maria started sharing her sketches on Instagram, inspired by the style of pop comic book artist Roy Lichtenstein, and was pleasantly surprised by the huge response she received. Young people from the Asian community, particularly, found their voice in hers. The humorous angle to the dramatic, overbearing interference by the aunties in the expat circles and those at home gave rise to common giggles, and they wanted more of it. Finally they could strike back at the dragons, sharing Maria’s hilarious depictions of these sari-clad demons and having a good laugh at their expense.
Given her success, Maria now treats her art as an emerging business, featuring and selling it through her Hatecopy brand. The response, she says, has been very encouraging, and the aunties are expected to sell like hot cakes!