Artist Shahzia Sikander on her multicultural past and our future

Shahzia Sikander in the Los Angeles Times:

ScreenHunter_1810 Mar. 26 18.47Human identity is mercurial. Like a human being, it is alive and liable to shift, evolve, challenge and surprise.

I was born in Lahore, Pakistan, to a family of storytellers. My father was an enthusiastic narrator, with oratory prowess. My first memory is of him reading to me Korney Chukovsky's book “Unusual Tales” translated into Urdu. His creative freedom in customizing the tales as he read out loud was infectious and entertaining. It signaled to me as a young child to be inventive. A couple of years later, encounters with Edgar Allan Poe, Lewis Carroll, Walter de la Mare alongside the stories of Miraj — the visionary night journey of Prophet Muhammad — felt like the Everest expedition in pursuit of wit, candor and irony. In high school the pendulum swung between Shakespeare and Salman Rushdie and a multitude of sources in between, allowing my imagination to inspect reality from different cultural consequences.

But growing up in Pakistan in the 1980s under a military regime that incessantly institutionalized religion was a deeply conflicting experience. The Hudood ordinances, which limited women's rights, loomed large. Art school was considered immoral. Co-education dissipated. Religious tolerance diminished.

More here.