Can you name #FiveWomenArtists? It might be harder than you think. In honor of #WomensHistoryMonth, we’re highlighting some of the many fantastic woman artists in our collection. Our first work of art, currently on display in “More Than Words: The Art of Calligraphy Across Asia” is “I Am or Am I Not My Own Enemy” by Pakistani-American artist Shahzia Sikander.
A close look at this calligraphic drawing reveals layers of text, musical notations and floral motifs. At the center, a block of text repeats the phrase "I am also not my own enemy," taken from a 19th-century melodic poem about unrequited love by the Indian poet Ghalib (1797–1869). Because the text runs together and repeats, it can also be read as "Am I also not my own enemy?" Sikander explains: "By repetition and layering, the text becomes both fluid and chaotic. In the process of translation what is revealed? The fluidity of language or the obscurity of the meaning?"