Born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1969, Shahzia Sikander took up the traditional practice of miniature painting during Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime, at a time when the medium was deeply unpopular among young artists. Sikander earned a B.F.A. in 1991 from the National College of Arts (NCA) in Lahore, where she received rigorous training from master miniaturist Bashir Ahmad. She became the first woman to teach in the Miniature Painting Department at NCA, alongside Ahmad, and was the first artist from the department to challenge the medium’s technical and aesthetic framework. Sikander’s breakthrough work, The Scroll, 1989–90, received national critical acclaim in Pakistan, winning the prestigious Shakir Ali Award, the NCA’s highest merit award, and the Haji Sharif award for excellence in miniature painting, subsequently launching the medium into the forefront of NCA’s program, which brought international recognition to this medium within contemporary art practices. The artist moved to the United States to pursue an M.F.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1993 to 1995; from 1995 to 1997, she participated in the CORE Program of the Glassell School of Art at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.