The art of henna

Yasmeen Mashayekh’s talent of applying henna in intricate patterns is similar to the cherry red stain revealed after dried henna paste is wiped away: unknown until you look deeper and try to uncover it.

At the age of 13, Mashayekh’s passion for doing henna, the traditional art of painting the hands, feet or body with a paste made from the powdered, dried leaves of the henna plant, began when a teacher at Mashayekh’s old school in the Middle East offered lessons in a club where she taught henna. Mashayekh’s teacher gave her tubes of henna to practice and improve with at home.

“I’m so happy that I joined her club,” Mashayekh said. “I was very excited to learn something new. I walked into that class wanting to walk out with something to take home, whether it be a new skill or a learning experience. I got both. It was something I always looked forward to at the end of each week. I had no idea that it would take me this far. One day if I meet her again, I want to thank her for that.”

This August, Mashayekh started a henna business to earn money and received bookings for 10 appointments in the first week. She opened a banking account, set up a spreadsheet to record her invoices and posted online fliers on on Instagram to advertise her business

“It felt like a big step, but it was really fun. It didn’t feel like I was actually starting to work, it felt like I was getting paid to do what I like,” Mashayekh said. “It makes me feel really good. It’s like a destresser when I’m able to do something I like and get creative.”

ASB booked Mashayekh to do henna at homecoming, and she  later attended the Muslim American Society(MAS) Convention on Thanksgiving, an event more than 5000 people attended and brought her business there. To prepare for the convention, Mashayekh designed a logo, created a business card and made a price brochure to reach a larger base of people.

“I’m really excited to get to do henna for so many different people and maybe get to know more people as well,” Mashayekh said. “I have to admit I’m a little nervous since it’s my first huge event, but hopefully everything will go as planned.”

Culture is a major part of Mashayekh’s journey though henna. She channels her emotions and feelings of being in the Middle East into her work. Through her art, Mashayekh feels she expresses herself while sharing a piece of her culture with those who are interested in learning about it.

“I have these flashbacks where I’m back in the Middle East, and I feel like it’s a connection to home,” Mashayekh said. “In the Middle East there are markets and as you go down the street there are different booths of people selling things. A lot of them are people doing henna and I feel like when I’m doing henna, I’m in that market setting.

By Bhalpriya Sandhu, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Yasmeen Mashayekh

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