A close look at this calligraphic drawing reveals layers of text, musical notations and floral motifs. At the center, a block of text repeats the phrase “I am also not my own enemy,” taken from a melodic poem from the 1800s about unrequited love by the Indian poet Ghalib (1797–1869). Because the text runs together and repeats, it can also be read as “Am I also not my own enemy?” The text is juxtaposed with musical notations, and the entire composition is laid over a field of flowers. Sikander finished the work with vertical drips of ink and paint, making the text and musical notes unreadable, but creating a visually beautiful work of art. Sikander explains: “By repetition and layering, the text becomes both fluid and chaotic. In the process of translation what is revealed? The fluidity of language or the obscurity of the meaning?”


  • Title: I Am or Am I Not My Own Enemy
  • Creator: Shahzia Sikander
  • Date Created: 2011
  • Location Created: United States of America
  • Physical Dimensions: h 208.28, w 129.54 cm
  • Type: Calligraphy
  • Rights: Purchase: the Asian Art Acquisition Fund in memory of Laurence Sickman
  • Medium: Ink and gouache on paper
  • Art Form: Drawing
  • Support: paper

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