Mind Games

This scene is a restaging of the painting Jahangir Receives Prince Khurram from the imperial Mughal manuscript Padshahnama (Book of emperors), now in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle. Using the durbar hall as a compositional device, Sikander centers two self-portraits flanking a subway map, with rooftop water tanks in the top margin further signaling a New York City setting. In the lower register, courtiers from the historical painting—now wearing masks—gather, perhaps as witnesses of the past. Presiding at center is the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Sikander sees this deity as nonbinary and a symbol of multitude, with the ability to look in all directions and possess any form. She was intrigued with these chameleonlike powers and with masking as a metaphor for the many sides—some unseen—of any narrative.

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Mind Games, 2000
Watercolor over inkjet print on tea-stained wasli paper
Courtesy of John McEnroe
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.