This double female representation exemplifies Sikander’s use of redrawing, reorienting, embellishing, and recontextualizing to arrive at new interpretations. Rendered here as a deity and its avatar, both with looping, “self-nourishing roots,” this figure would become an iconic image in Sikander’s lexicon. The figures are presented in conversation with each other: one vertical, active, buoyant, and light; the other horizontal, passive, grounded, and dark. The liquidity of the ink on the slick paper created an unusual mottled pattern that resembles skin.

Self-Rooted is one of Sikander’s earliest works to employ layered tracing paper—note the vertical lines showing through from the sheet below. The strategy would soon be central to her practice.

Shahzia Sikander (born 1969)
Self-Rooted, 1994
Ink and gouache on layered tracing paper
RISD Museum: Paula and Leonard Granoff Fund and Walter H. Kimball Fund 2020.28
© Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly, New York and Pilar Corrias, London.