Sparks fly when an artist decides to talk back to her Pakistani ‘uncles and aunties’

1

Women in the World: April 18, 2016

When Maria Qamar was a child, her parents refused to support her decision to pursue art — even ripping the drawings from her bedroom walls on one occasion. Today, thousands pay to have her work on their walls. 

For many people of South Asian descent, there is a group in possession of the magic words that will instantly transport you to your most painful and rebellious teenage years — the uncles and aunties. Often unrelated to you, they are the cluster of your parent’s friends that have a word of advice (or disapproval) for everything from your weight and grades to your marriage prospects.

Maria Qamar, a Toronto-based artist and the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, who goes by the name Hatecopy, decided to talk back to the uncles and aunties. And very quickly, she had more than 46,000 followers on Instagram alone, listening in to the conversation and chiming in with their stories, both hilarious and heartbreaking.

When Qamar was a child, her parents refused to support her decision to pursue art — even ripping her drawings off the walls of her bedroom in one instance. Today, thousands pay to hang that art on the walls of their homes. Qamar spoke with Women in the World about this gratifying journey and why getting let go of her day job was the best thing that happened to her.

Full story here

 

 

Advertisements

IN ALL FAIRNESS, CHICKEN WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN MUCH OF A DISTRACTION ANYWAY

Roads and Kingdoms: November 13, 2015

1

Brains Breakfast-Style in Karachi

My father liked to tell us this story when we were children: a fellow doctor was visiting some exotic country (I forget where) and was invited to a dinner. His hosts placed a monkey’s head before him—brains, eyeballs and all—and told him, “It is our tradition to serve our guest of honor this delicacy.” The young doctor’s stomach quaked. All eyes—including the monkey’s—were on him. “Where I am from, it is a tradition to honor your hosts by asking them to eat such a delicacy first,” he replied. As the story goes, the hosts were overjoyed, everyone felt suitably honored, and the dinner was a success.

We were taught to eat—and loudly appreciate—whatever a host put on our plates. There were two rules we had to abide by. The first was simple: don’t insult someone by refusing the food or drink they offer you. The second was trickier: eat the food, yes. Finish it? Certainly not. For instance, if you were given a glass of juice at someone’s house, you were to make sure you drank all but the last few gulps, leaving an inch or so of juice in the glass. “Gobble everything down and people will think you don’t get good food in your own home,” we were warned. “You don’t want people to think you are a bhooki (perpetually hungry or just plain greedy).”

Full story here

Madonna puts Karachi’s Mawach Goth on the map

It took a global funding campaign – and a little help from her friend pop queen Madonna – to get Humaira Bachal her dream school. “The Dream School is finally finished. 1,200 kids attending. Knowledge is Power!” singer and social activist Madonna announced on the photo-sharing website Instagram on Monday, with a photograph of the Dream Model Street School in Karachi’s Mawach Goth.

“Half the funding came through crowd sourcing,” explains 26-year-old Humaira Bachal, president of the Dream Foundation Trust. “Madonna promised that she would match the amount donated and now the school has been completed at a total cost of $57,648.”

Full story here

This story also got picked up by the Sindhi papers, so my day was made seeing my byline there (pretty much the only thing I can read on that paper)

1

December 27, 18:16

The Express Tribune: December 28, 2013

Six years later, The Express Tribune asked, ‘What’s your story?’

“I was in Badin at a PPP election camp during the campaign. My cousin received a phone call and I saw him placing his head in his hands. “I think something very bad has happened,” he said to me. I called a friend in Dawn News and he told me BB had been shot and there was a chance she wouldn’t make it. We didn’t know what to do – people were putting up flags, dancing, singing Dila Teer Bija and chanting PPP slogans. Only my cousin and I knew what had happened in this crowd of thousands. Thirty minutes later, we were sitting in the camp office when we heard screaming. The news was out. We closed the camp and told people to go home. In 45 minutes, the firing started. Our office was in walking distance of Zulfiqar Mirza’s office and cars full of men arrived there and started firing. Things went out of control within minutes – people were looting banks and shops. Some people went to a thana near my house and attacked it. I was handed a pistol and told to stand outside the house of a family, because we were scared the women and children would be targeted.

Sameer, Karachi”

I interviewed so many people with fantastic stories – with space restrictions however, only a few made the cut.

Link to article in the Tribune

Home and away

The Express Tribune’s T Magazine: November 24-30, 2013

“This is the first time that I’ve had to talk to CNN about one of our exhibits,” quips Sarah Bevan, curator of the Imperial War Museum’s (London) IWM Contemporary programme, which features 5,000 Feet Is The Best, a short film by artist Omer Fast exploring the subject of drone warfare.

“At 5,000 feet,” explains a drone operator interviewed by Fast in the film, “I can tell what type of shoes you’re wearing from a mile away.” The film is structured around segments of interviews with this former drone operator (now employed as a security guard) who claims to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a consequence of the missions he has been a part of in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The film, played on a loop, has no discernable opening or ending, and viewers are free to watch the narrative, comprised of a series of vignettes, unfold at any point.

Link to full article in T Magazine

Link to excerpt from Fast’s short film

Making a mark

The Herald: Cover story, December 2011

Making a mark

Defacement or censorship in international publications

British GQ’s September issue features a portfolio of images by photographer Mario Testino, including portrait of supermodel Gisele Bündchen. You are denied a comparatively innocuous glimpse of the curve of Bündchen’s breast – it has been scribbled over with black marker.

The director of distributor Liberty Books’ magazine division, Jamil Hussain, explains that this process, which the company refers to as “defacing”, is carried out by buyers in the U.S. and U.K.. Liberty, who supplies an estimated 95% of the market in Pakistan, is responsible for the purchase and distribution of 250 titles ranging from GQ, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Men’s Health and Esquire to Harvard Business Review, Time, Newsweek, Reader’s Digest and The Economist across Pakistan. With magazines such as Maxim, which promises “scantily clad cover models and plenty of revealing photo layouts,” Liberty has what Hussain refers to as a “standing order” from the Pakistani Press Information Department (PID) and Customs to ensure that “nothing sexually explicit and anti-Islamic” makes its way into the local market. International buyers approach publishers such as Conde Nast on behalf of Liberty Books, acquiring magazines that are subsequently checked for images that would not pass the litmus test of the market’s sensibilities – Pakistan or the Middle East, for instance. In warehouses in London and New York, black marker-wielding employees restore the modesty of the scantily clad models.

Link to PDF of full article

Link to full article on Herald site

“We are examining the relationship between faith and society”

The Herald: September 2011

“We are examining the relationship between faith and society”: Venetia Porter, curator of the British Museum’s Hajj exhibit

London’s British Museum announced this August that a new exhibition entitled Hajj: Journey to the Heart of Islam will open at the museum in January 2012, bringing together historic and contemporary objects – including contemporary art, video, pilgrims’ testimonies, manuscripts, textiles, archaeological items and photography – to explore the experience and importance of the annual pilgrimage. Visitors to the exhibition can also expect sound-cones emitting the labbaik prayer, extracts from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (he went on Hajj in 1964), the Kiswah (the cloth covering the Kaaba) and the bottle that explorer Richard Burton filled with water from the Zamzam well in 1853. The show is scheduled to run from January 26 – April 15, 2012.

Venetia Porter, responsible for the British Museum’s collection of Islamic and modern Middle Eastern art and also chief curator for the exhibition, spoke to the Herald on how this exhibition will focus on the history of Islam and the region, while looking at the material culture surrounding the religion.

Link to PDF of full article