Could you tell us a little bit about the process of making this book. How did you work together? Did you learn anything new?
SS: I had several independent opportunities to engage with Hanna and Amy, and throughout the process I was able to share thoughts, images, and photos with them as well as the MoMA team who were committed to having my voice be present. I shared specific historical paintings that have inspired me along with childhood and family photographs, of running around outdoors, playing cricket, flying kites, climbing trees, images of my beloved animated city of Lahore, and of the master teacher Bashir Ahmed with whom I learned pre-modern manuscript painting techniques as a teenager. I went through different children’s books while I researched, using the opportunity to peruse picture books with my son. What I have learned is that there’s a dearth of books exposing kids to painting as a life-long path. There are also very few books about Muslim kids just being kids and not siloed into stereotypes.
HB: On top of the conversations I had with Shahzia about her life growing up in Pakistan, I read interviews and observed her artwork in detail. I spent a long time studying the characteristics of The Scroll and used it often as my reference throughout the book. I found myself with an intense curiosity to study the history of miniature painting, revisit Russian folktales, and browse through contemporary children’s books. But I also felt I needed to delve deeper into the cultural and geopolitical history of South Asia, Islam, literature, Hinduism, from the Mughal Courts to Partition, from Babur to Manto and Leopold Weiss. It was important to me to channel an understanding and appreciation of cross-cultural visual connections and stay true both to the author’s words and my own visual language. I was guided by Shahzia throughout the whole process and feel deep gratitude for her welcoming a process of collaboration. A whole new world opened up for me by creating this children's book.
AN: In addition to talking to Shahzia, I also read about her, listened to interviews, and studied her artwork. I had a story to work with, and adapt from, which, for me, is a great way to begin. From there, I had fun with all of the vivid details of Shahzia’s childhood. I learned that Shahzia skateboarded as a child in Lahore, Pakistan. I love that detail and it was one that I could relate to: I skateboarded as a child growing up in Southern California.