Maria's distinctive style — Indian soap opera meets Roy Lichtenstein comic — has taken the art world by storm.
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Assembly

7 November 2019 | Volume 2, Issue 10
  A note from our editor:
This week’s Assembly is all about girls and women who are challenging expectations.

Desi artist Maria Qamar, aka @hatecopy, tells us about pursuing her passion for art — despite her parents’ plans for her career.

18-year-old Chinese student Hanyu Wang writes a poem inspired by girls who have broken into male-dominated fields.

And we highlight Fakhria and Froohar Momtaz, the mother-daughter duo behind Afghanistan’s first all-female yoga studio.

Also in this issue, girls from Morocco, Canada, Algeria and Mexico describe what they had for breakfast. And we invite you to share a picture of your friend group and tell us why they’re the best. We’ll be publishing a few of our favourite submissions next month.

Enjoy reading!


 
 
Artist spotlight
 
 
 
No sharam, no problem: Maria Qamar, aka @hatecopy, on fighting for women in the arts
Maria Qamar
  By McKinley Tretler
“I was denied an education in the arts,” shares desi artist Maria Qamar. “I was told, ‘This is not a nice thing, an appropriate thing or a proper thing to do [for a girl].’” Her parents feared that she wouldn’t be able to support herself as an artist — but they had no need to worry. With more than 195,000 Instagram followers, a solo exhibit at the Richard Taittinger Gallery in New York City and a published book, Maria’s distinctive style (Indian soap opera meets Roy Lichtenstein comic) has taken the art world by storm.

Using the handle @hatecopy, Maria began sharing her punchy and colourful pop art on Instagram in 2015 after leaving a copywriting job. From saree jokes to samosa bean bag chairs, her depictions of South Asian culture resonate with fans around the world.

The heroes in Maria’s artwork are women — angry, shameless, sometimes sly — adorned with bindis and looking glam. In Hinglish (a combination of Hindi and English), Maria challenges patriarchy, hypocrisy, racism and stereotypes, while also celebrating sisterhood, love and South Asian cuisine. Each art piece seems like a soundbite from her inner monologue or a snapshot of an interaction she once had.

The themes in Maria's work reflect her upbringing. Born in Pakistan, Maria moved with her parents from Karachi to Toronto, Canada when she was 9 years old. One year after their move, 9/11 happened and her classmates bullied her for being brown. Maria found solace by drawing, where her voice felt strongest. It was then that she realised she wanted to be an artist. However, her parents had other ideas for her future.
 

 
 
Reader submissions
 
 
Reader submission
From the group of girls who code together in Nigeria to the team of young women in Afghanistan climbing mountains and fighting norms, female friendships come in all different shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a clique or a crew, send us a photo of you and your friends and tell us what makes your bond special. We will publish our favourite submissions in a future issue of Assembly!
 


 
 
Around the world 
 
  What did you have for breakfast today?

Aya “Moroccan green tea with a meloui bread (a kind of Moroccan bread). Meloui is flaky and delicious. The ingredients are simple but the secret is kneading. It can reveal how loving and passionate a mom is; the more you knead it with love, the more it turns out flaky. You can eat it with honey, cream cheese, Nutella or even by itself. Accompanied with a nice cup of Moroccan green tea, it is an exceptional start of the day!”
— Aya, 15, Morocco
“Beef Nihari is slow-cooked beef stew that is popular in the Indian subcontinent, particularly in Bangladesh (where I’m from!) and Pakistan. As with most dishes, the best part in my opinion is the parts that are the worst for you: in this case, the fatty bits that fall off the bone. My mom typically prepares it on special occasions like when we finish exams or when my brother comes home.”
— Raisa, 21, Canada
Raisa
 
Sarah “Coffee and some msamen, traditional Algerian sweets. I like to drink black coffee and some msamen with sugar or honey on top. Others have it with some tea, especially in the south of my country.”
— Sarah, 21, Algeria
“Huevos rancheros and coffee! Huevos rancheros is basically two eggs over two tortillas (some people like to add two slices of ham over the tortillas) and covered with red salsa. Some people eat them with beans and cheese on the side. I like eating them because they are a very typical Mexican dish and because they tend to be spicy!”
— María Teresa, 19, Mexico
María Teresa
     
 
Student poem
 
 
 
A girl
A girl
  By Hanyu Wang

A girl
She wanted to be a kung fu star in Chinese movies.
Ma said girls don’t do kung fu.
She learned it from YouTube, skimming over the bamboo trees.

A girl
She begged Ba to see a volcano in India.
Ba thought it was far and risky.
She opened her National Geographic, feeling rivulets of fire.

A girl
She asked her brother to teach her to sail.
Her brother refused because it was dangerous.
She weighed anchor, steering across the Pacific.

A girl
She desired to land on the Moon.
Her commander mocked, “It’s not a woman’s job.”
She advanced one small step, wandering in the space.

A girl
She longed to be a tech innovator.
Her competitor said, “Girls are not born for tech.”
She shined at the GeekPark, breaking gender stereotypes.

Girls
We hoped to chase our dreams.
They alerted us the obstacles.
We stepped our feet on the new territory, crossing the boundary to explore the unknown world.
 
 
 
Career profile
 
 
 
The mother-daughter duo behind Afghanistan’s first all-female yoga studio
Afghanistan yoga studio
  By Emma Yee Yick
This article is available in Dari.

When Fakhria Momtaz opened the Momtaz Yoga Center, Afghanistan’s first all-female yoga studio, her teenage daughter Froohar remembers feeling overwhelmed with pride and gratitude.

“There is a lack of confidence in Afghan girls,” says 17-year-old Froohar. “They need somewhere to increase their confidence and relax themselves. I’m really thankful for my mom.”

Coming from a family of athletes, Fakhria was practising yoga before she even knew what the word meant. She started studying yoga in earnest as an adult and worked to incorporate it into her personal and professional life. At home, Fakhria began teaching Froohar the ancient discipline when her daughter was 7 years old. At the web host company Fakhria founded with her husband, she would lead informal yoga lessons for female employees, pushing back desks during lunch or after work. When she saw how much Froohar and her employees enjoyed yoga, Fakhria decided to expand her classes to reach more girls and women in Kabul. In 2016, she opened the Momtaz Yoga Center.

“There is no other place for women to feel comfortable, to have a safe place and to feel better and have a space for gathering with each other,” Fakhria says of Momtaz Yoga Center. She and Froohar lead free yoga, therapy, meditation and wellness classes for Afghan girls and women at the centre. After completing secondary school last year, Froohar has also been assisting with administrative work before she begins university. “When my mom is abroad, when she’s on a business trip, I’m trying to cover for her as a supervisor,” she shares.

Read more.
 
 
Get published in Assembly!
 
  Assembly publishes original work by girls, for girls. And we would love to include your voice! Send us your ideas and you could be featured in the next issue.
 
 
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