2013. 'Oh,'. Natural henna paste on muslin. 10ft x 10ft Artist's own
Photographer: Tara Noelle, 2022
Dearest Creative One, Why are you so dependent on exterior sources of motivation when you; yourself, is an awakened state of creative consciousness and profound abilities to communicate the messages that come to you?
Why is it that those closest choose to fold their minds with vein when you reveal your emotional realities?
Why do people disagree to agree after realms of conversations change tone but the answer is still the same? We, as humans are the most complex breed here on earth, yet, we believe that we are alone when we are suffering. I believe that we were given the earth to build modalities to mirror recovery with the abundance of the EARTH.
Henna has been this for me and for the past 2 decades, it has been the medicine to help support the well-being of my patients and clients over the last 16 years.
Virtual mental health workshop - Sakeenah Homes residences, 2022
Nature is profound unlike any other force.
It moves and speaks to us in the most harsh and unbearable of climates, offering shelter to us during the storms, and guides us with the fuel and prosperity to look forward to newer and brighter days throughout life's adversities.
My motive while working with henna didn't peak until June 2018. I had been practicing with henna in a holistic manner to help me therapeutically as I continued to support myself financially as I chose to go full-time with my small business, Breath of Henna. Challenged with henna taboos and cultural restraints, wherever I had gone to use henna - the majority of persons simply knew it for its beauty.
If sessions were longer, it peaked interest, but soon drifted as henna-based events were predominantly scheduled with weddings & loud, vivacious attendees.
My cognitive health began to deteriorate due to an overload of work, events, running a business, being at work full-time and my schedule swallowed me WHOLE as my cortisol levels were off the charts! This is when I began my seeking support from integrative health workers and reconnected with an ND.
I was diagnosed with Bell's palsy in 2018, which led me to put my business, my life on hold - everything for a period of 3 months to reconnect with my breath and rebuild a relationship with my body outside of the workaholic, high performing, overachieving emotional addictions that I allowed. How could I not, I was working from a 'survivor mindset'. I had always felt short of financial resources - it was the worst while I was at OCADU as I had one meal for 8 hour days + a 2 hour commute back to Richmond Hill from Toronto.
If you know the story of henna artists, you'll know that a large number of us come from the South-Asian demographic and have predominantly been seen as Street Artists. When customers see street, they automatically think cheap. Historically tradesmen and women would setup shop after traveling from their homes with their business caravans; often time those would be their homes if they hadn't made their day's earnings in the market.
I had to address these societal issues in the drafting room of my brain because I was tired of the misinformation around what it meant to be a 'henna artist' and its diverse medicinal history ranging from being used as a poultice to cure jaundice in children (5000+ years ago), as a coolant in warmer climate for the soles of the feet, to help soothe bruises and improve circulation.
2013. Henna on muslin with gouache medium. Artist's own
2013. 'Colonized art'. Henna on canvas, gouache sealant. Artist's own
2017. Bridal henna Artist's own
“I believe in love. I believe in hard times and love winning. I believe marriage is hard. I believe people make mistakes. I believe people can want two things at once. I believe people are selfish and generous at the same time. I believe very few people want to hurt others. I believe that you can be surprised by life. I believe in happy endings.” ― Isabel Gillies, Happens Every Day: An All Too True Story
2013. Printed raw silk, handmade cotton paper, henna, newsprint on Muslin.
'I chose to believe can want two things at once in life..'
10 years ago I was proud to have introduced the medium of henna in an academic setting - I could play this on a live record because I have Artists reach out to me for this very step who, too, used Henna while they were at OCADU.
Then there was my medicinal goal of bringing Henna into a clinical environment and a form of integrative medicine and here I am now, almost 10 years later, age 35 as Certified Holistic Health Practitioner, Reflexologist and Holistic henna practitioner while using FDA approved, aromatherapy licensed henna IN A CLINICAL SETTING! One of my largest goals has come TRUE and you can book your holistic henna session (prenatal, post natal, post chemotherapy, breast cancer surgery, grief support and celebration) at Health Energies Vaughan!
My time was short during academic hours; I could feel an expectation calling my name miles before it even sunk into my brain and bursted onto the one-hundred pound paper through my micron ink pens and led. I couldn't draw what the class expected me to do, I did what I felt was needed. I passed with flying colours and numbers began to sink as my financial situation was sinking deeper and deeper. I was low on fuel and so I began disappearing from classes as I didn't have enough to sustain my mind; my creativity.
"Kabul-Khan". Henna, gouache and birch veneer. 2012
My professors loved and supported my art focus in my final year.
But in my early years, while deciding on joining the Art or Design department, I was turned down - diversity was not addressed as well as it is today.
In my earlier years, I would create art that reflected the teachings of my home. At OCADU from 2007 to 2013, I saw two themes - cultural rejection or cultural stimulation. The themes were either very loud - in your face OR you were an Artist in hiding; readdressing not only your art but questioning your self-worth. I walked into OCADU thinking 'here's my chance' to explore art and set myself free from the traumatic shifts I had experienced to get into this program..' but no.
Stepping into a university was a privilege that my parents registered upon my birth in Hamilton, ON in 1988. This was not the route I expected my art to take, I wanted to be in the classrooms on my own, painting to escape the realities of my home when in 2010 I was introduced to abstract painting styles and fell in love with using space. Using space as 'human choices' and white space as the subconscious space of 'infinite realities' in my life.
I went for the white space and so the henna took shape.
I was raised in Hamilton, ON where mirroring south-asian culture outside of my home was close to none. I approached the concept of henna and mental health when I was 22 after having faced traumatic financial events in the early years of my undergrad - probation encouraged me to raise funds and start my business part-time and organize funds to pay off tuition and rejoin OCADU when I was 23 to complete the BFA program When I had completed 'O' , there was a huge sigh of relief as I laid my last henna cone on the ground after 3 weeks of strenuous work (my knees bruised from sitting on the floor at home and supple callouses on my pinky and index fingers). My fingers were bruised and they were numb. I could not feel my neck for days as I prepared the wooden 10ftx10ft frames for the final viewing at OCAD University's Annual Grad Exhibition. I have my love for the culture to thank and myself because I saw the possibilities of graduating even though everything around be was telling me I could not.
Above: Self portrait. At OCAD University GRADEX. 2013
I realized that in that moment, I was composing a verse that wanted to speak; a void from within me. As I painted the textile, the textile became alive as a rhythm churned within my heart and my brain became
A void in which I could see the outer layers of guilt and self doubt melt away.
This natural, earth-bound medium emitted more than history, it radiates a deep healing from the earth unknown to anyone until it was revealed in its true state; a liberation of the arts.
The repeated patterns danced as I watched the wheel of opportunity extend it's patterned movement towards the light and shadow. It represented change and reflection. It became my mantra and is embedded into my existence that I now share today with the world.