The Last Post was inspired by Sikander’s ongoing interest in the colonial history of the sub-continent and the British opium trade with China. In this animation, layers of images, abstract forms, meaning, and metaphorical associations slowly unfold at the same time that more visual myths are created. The identity of the protagonist, a red-coated official, is indeterminate and suggestive of both the mercantilist policies that led to the Opium Wars with China and the cultural authority claimed by the Company school of painting over colonial India.
Shahzia Sikander is known for her richly layered and intricately detailed paintings made from graphite, ink, and gouache on paper. She studied miniature painting in the late 1980s at the National College of Art in Lahore, Pakistan, and her approach has been heavily influenced by the forms and techniques of Indo-Persian miniatures. Sikander’s practice explores the concepts of “East” and “West,” and she uses traditional strategies of storytelling and themes of popular mythology to deconstruct the postcolonial legacy of the Indo-Persian region. In 2001, Sikander began to work in digital animation and create video works based on her drawings.