At 40 pages, this biography about Pakistani born artist Shahzia Sikander is filled with culture and experiences. The story shows the influences of her family, the city of Lahore, her love of math, and her art education have in shaping her in to the artist she is today. The book features photographs of her work at the end, but I found it odd that she didn’t illustrate the book herself. The playful blocky pictures and text would appeal to first or second graders with some assistance, but would be better suited for readers a bit older if they are unfamiliar with some of the cultural and artistic vocabulary. There is no mention of Islam in the book, when researching, it says her family is Muslim. It seems she went to Catholic school, and a road trip was taken that included visiting the Sistine Chapel. A few illustrations show people in hijab and it mentions the athan ringing out five times a day. The book was interesting, but I wish I could have found it at the library, rather than purchasing it. I don’t know that it will be read more than once, but that speaks more to personal preference, rather than the quality of the book. If you enjoy fine art, are from Lahore, are a fan of Shahzia Sikander’s work, you will definitely enjoy this book.
The story starts with a girl stepping in to a painting with many rooms, filled with many people in a joint family. It is her (Shahzia’s) home, and her family. The rooms are filled with ancient fables, Russian fairy tales, poetry, English, Urdu, Bollywood songs, and American Westerns.
Outside is the city of Lahore, in Pakistan, streets rich in smell and color and sound exist: orange jalebi and strings of jasmine, sounds of Qawwalis and pop music, the melodic call to prayer from the minarets. As a child she plays cricket and climbs trees and flies kites. Up on the roof she trains pigeons and looks out at the horizon.
When it gets hot, her family heads north. They once traveled all the way to Rome. She visited the Sistine chapel, her and Michelangelo share a birthday.
At school she is shy. She loves math, as it is a tool to understand the world. She finds she is also good at drawing birds, and people. She studies miniatures with a magnifying glass. Eventually training in miniature painting with a master. Art becomes her ticket to new worlds.
She heads off for America, taking her roots with her, but once she arrives she cannot leave. Her passport is the wrong, color. She lives in New York and cannot return to Pakistan for nine years. Now she can travel and soar and share her work with the world.
There is a glossary at the end and more information about Shahzia and her paintings.