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The World Is Yours, the World Is Mine, 2014

by Shahzia Sikander*


“The World is Yours, The World is Mine,” 2014. Vegetable color, dry pigment, watercolor, and gouache on hand-prepared wasli paper, 40.5 × 28 cm.

"The World Is Yours, The World Is Mine" was created in 2014 by Shahzia SIkander in response to the Ebola outbreak and appeared with the Opinion piece she wrote for the New York Times. Her words reflect also the state of the world during the Covid pandemic. Read excerpts below, and the full article here.

Sikander wrote "The Ebola narrative has also become the story of how we don’t want to be connected in what is supposedly a hyperconnected and globalized world. We have tried to screen for symptoms and enforce quarantines. However, the interface between human and microbe is complex. Our bodies cannot thrive without some microbes — they are an essential part of our personal ecosystems. They are always present, often lying dormant, just as narratives lie dormant until someone culls them from history’s rubble. I have chosen to respond to these events from 2014 in my work, “The World Is Yours, the World Is Mine,” (2014).

She describes the meaning of the three figures in the work: "The central quasi-mythological figure has three heads, all of them New Yorkers. The figure on the left is Langston Hughes, the poet, novelist and leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s who told of the everyday lives of working-class African-Americans. In the center is death, a white skeleton figure with its organs spilling out of its chest. And on the right is the hip-hop artist Nas, known for his vivid observations and storytelling. Hughes and Nas have distinct relationships with lyric verse in their storytelling: Hughes through poetry and Nas through rap"


She explains her viewpoint of underrepresented narratives and the meaning of her juxtapositions: "My painting explores multiple modes of storytelling from the vantage point of New York City, a place of integration and turmoil that is still coming to terms with its underrepresented narratives, including its African-American history. Many issues arise: not just questions of wealth and class, but of trade, global economics, crime, capitalism, race and personal identity".... "The process of juxtaposing is an exercise in reflection and discovery for me. It not only allows space for anticipation and reinterpretation, but can also spark new relationships."


"My process is driven by my interest in exploring and rediscovering cultural and political boundaries, and using that space to create new frameworks for dialogue and visual narrative. Contemporaneity is about remaining relevant by challenging the status quo, not by clinging to past successes. This is at odds with the standards set up in the worlds of commercial art and music, which are more interested in branding and often hold an artist hostage to one idea or form. In my work, deconstruction is not limited to the miniature-painting format; it extends to the reimagining of historical content and entrenched symbols. It is important to open the discourse, to challenge and re-examine our histories."

Read the full article in the New York Times here.

Shahzia Sikander
Pioneering Pakistani American, Shahzia Sikander, is one of the most influential artists working today. Sikander is widely celebrated for expanding and subverting pre-modern and classical Central and South-Asian miniature painting traditions and launching the form known today as neo-miniature. Full biography here

The World is Yours, The World is Mine, 2014, was created by Shahzia Sikander for The New York Times “Turning Points” magazine and Opinion page, December 4, 2014. © Shahzia Sikander. Courtesy of the artist and Sean Kelly, New York.

*The World is Yours, The World is Mine
, 2014, and the essay, Kindness, Key to Survival, by Dr. Daniel Fessler, Director of the Badari Kindness Cener at UCLA, are featured in Centerpoint Now ©2020, World Council of Peoples for the United Nations, UN 75th anniversary special edition "Are we there yet?" co-produced with Streaming Museum.

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