Ready to Leave


Circles featured increasingly in Sikander’s lexicon in Houston, along with the griffin, an eagle-lion hybrid from Greek myth. “Under Alexander the Great, the Hellenic world extended to the Indian region of Punjab,” Sikander explains, “making the griffin a remnant from an earlier period of colonialization. I was connecting the griffin to the chalawa, a Punjabi term for a small farm animal that is now disappearing due to the region’s urbanization. The chalawa is a ghost. In my usage, it’s somebody who is so swift and transient, you can’t pin down who they are. I am identifying with the chalawa, resisting the routinely confronted categories: ‘Are you Muslim, Pakistani, artist, painter, Asian, Asian American, or what?’”

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Ready to Leave, 1997
Watercolor, gouache, and ink, on tea-stained, marbled wasli paper
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Drawing Committee, 97.83.3
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.