Related themes

Intersecting Identities

Artists often address their multiple, intersecting identities in a work of art.

Amorial Bearings from No Parking Anytime

Shahzia Sikander
(Pakistani, born 1969)

2001. Photogravure with etching and chine collé from a portfolio of nine photogravures, one with etching, two with aquatint, one with etching and aquatint, four with etching and chine collé, and one with etching, aquatint and chine collé., plate: 10 1/16 x 7 5/8" (25.6 x 19.4 cm); sheet: 18 3/16 x 14 9/16" (46.2 x 37 cm)

In Armorial Bearings, Sikander creates what she calls a “divine circle” out of female figures, dots, and hands clutching various types of weapons, including swords, axes, and ropes. Together, the graphic elements form a mandala, a sacred Hindu art form that symbolizes the universe. She wrote that she was interested in the tensions between “the quiet and the chaotic” and “horror and beauty.”1

Armorial Bearings, part of the series No Parking Anytime, is a print that borrows elements from Indo-Persian miniature paintings—a classical art form traditionally made by male artists. Born in Pakistan to a Muslim family, Sikander  has interpreted this ancient art form in a way that blends Eastern technique and precision with personal symbols and ideas derived from Western culture. Sikander wrote, “The swords/weapons here are more or less a stylized, simplified generic representation of the weapons possibly found in a variety of older miniature painting.”1 In her work, she fuses elements of Hinduism and Islam of neighboring nations India and Pakistan, while also making references to sexuality, politics, and her own personal history.

Email from Shahzia Sikander to Laura Beiles, June 21, 2009
“Shahzia Sikander,” PBS Art21. Available online at:

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A representation of a human or animal form in a work of art.

A sacred Hindu and Buddhist art form, generally circular, that symbolizes the universe.

A form, sign, or emblem that represents something else, often something immaterial, such as an idea or emotion.

The visual portrayal of someone or something.

Subject matter in visual art, often adhering to particular conventions of artistic representation, and imbued with symbolic meanings.

Tangled Histories
The modern state of Pakistan was established in 1947, when the northwestern and eastern regions of British India, where there was a Muslim majority, gained independence from the colonial rulers. Sikander once wrote: “Such juxtaposing and mixing of Hindu and Muslim iconography is a parallel to the entanglement of histories of India and Pakistan.”2


AUDIO: Shahzia Sikander participates in a panel discussion on home and exile