A Henna Artist’s Journey
HennaDot.com recently interviewed Sydney based henna artist on her journey of the craft.
1. Tell us a little about yourself (Where you live? Your henna journey? How you decided to pursue this form of art)? My name is Nafeesah and I’m currently living in Sydney. I’m originally from Mauritius, a treasure in the Indian Ocean. I have been doing henna for as long as I can remember which could be around the age of 8-9. Born and raised in Mauritius, it was not hard to discover the art of henna, given that the little island thrives on multiculturalism. There’s henna for every festival, be it Eid, or Divali, or weddings. Occasionally, for weddings and Eids, I used to get adorned by my elder cousins and I remember how I would admire and get absorbed just watching them do the art on themselves, on my hands and on others. Back in the days, henna was mostly dots and patches here and there but my cousins were really good at it. Their designs, always so fine, would stand out to me. When everybody had their henna done, I’d often pick up the used cones – usually there’s still plenty left in them – and start drawing on my arm, wherever there was no henna drawn already. That’s how my passion grew and that’s when I knew it was something I was going to enjoy doing for a long time.
After I finished my engineering degree, I started my henna journey as a business while waiting to get a job in my field of study. In all honesty, I would not have started henna as a business had it not been for Nuzhah’s (an amazing friend and henna artist called “Henna Crush”) help and encouragement for me to do so. I undertook the journey as “Chweet’s Mehendi Arts” (since most of my friends knew me as “Chweet”) which I later changed to The Henna Realm.
2. I love your Instagram page and your minimalist design aesthetic/great photography. What other forms of art do you love and practice. How does henna fit it on all of that? I’m a firm believer of “less is more”. I love intricate designs. I love tiny dots and fine lines. I love detail. This is probably the first thing that made me shoot close-ups of my designs. Initially, I was using my phone camera for close-up shots. Later, when I got hold of a DSLR, I started shooting macros of my henna designs. I just love to be able to shoot and portray my henna designs this close. This has helped me personally see how my work is improving since it would display the neatness of the designs. To me, seeing an artwork up close is a sign of confidence from an artist. Eventually, I discovered my other passion – photography – which I’m currently exploring. I believe that henna and photography together are a great combination towards professionalism in the art world.
3. Where do you get your artistic inspiration from? Take us into our journey of your creative process?Inspiration is a great gift. Honestly, for me, inspiration comes from the Divine. I believe in God and believing in God means believing in a Creator, the Greatest of all artists. As a child, I used to be fascinated by nature, by the perfection of it all and think of the One behind all these amazing designs that are right in front of our eyes.
I love patterns. They are constantly recurring around us. To me, there is no pattern or design more beautiful and unique than those present in nature. For instance, the amazing colour palette of the body of a spider or a lizard, or how the design of a leaf differs from one tree to another. Sometimes just being in nature inspires me. I believe that nature has an amazing effect on the brain and the soul.
Another good place to seek inspiration is other artists’ works so long I’m not copying, because copying someone tends to hinder my own inspiration.
Once inspired, I often play some soft music as I draw. Initially, I’m listening to the music but soon, I’ll drift into my own world of thoughts and these are what will materialize into my artworks.
4. Are there many henna artists in your geographical area? Do people generally know about henna now or do you find yourself educating people?There are quite a number of henna artists in Sydney but not many in the area I live. I actually was quite surprised when I came to Sydney and found out that most people had no idea of natural henna. Sydney is full of Asian stores where they sell nasty chemical henna. I even tried it once because I had no clue it was chemical. The smell was bad, repugnant and it left my skin feeling tingly . This is what motivated me to learn how to make my own organic henna. For every henna party that I do, I have at least 1 or 2 people asking me “do you do black henna?” or “which colour is your henna? I like the black one”. I have to constantly explain about how bad black henna is and that I make my own organic henna at home (by which they are impressed ). Many people do not know that henna comes from a plant. I once met someone who thought that getting a henna tattoo is painful. So yes, I am regularly talking about organic henna and dangers of black henna to many Sydneysiders.
5. What is the most ridiculous/random trivia fact you know?If your average night’s sleep is 8 hours (i.e one third of your day), then you sleep for one third of your life. So if you live to be 75, you’ve slept 25 years. That’s a lot of years.
6. Your name is the “the henna realm”. Where is exactly is this realm, is it another planet, time period, under water. Give us a small glimpse of this alternate henna universe.* smile *
Earlier I said that I started out as Chweet’s Mehendi Arts. That’s because everyone knew me as “Chweet Nafs” . Once I moved to Sydney, I found the brand name a bit problematic. It was a bit hard to get people to pronounce my brand name, let alone remember it. I had to come up with a cool name, unique as well for my website. A name suitable for Sydneysiders. I came up with the most obvious; “my henna world”, given that I’m quite far away from this real world when I’m doing henna. I get transported somewhere else. I get carried away into a new realm.
7. If you could cover your entire interior of your home with one pattern (polka dots, stripes, hearts, etc) which one would it be and can only be one color. I’m a bit reluctant with the idea of covering my whole house with patterns, as much as I love them. Honestly, I would prefer a huge henna design, preferably a mandala, on the featured wall of my living room and I would do it myself with whichever color best contrasts with the wall. It would definitely be a matte finish.
8. How do you generally acquire customers? If we came to your city and needed some henna done, what is the best way to reach you?
Maybe google (or Facebook search) The Henna Realm.
I try using social media to the best of my ability. I’m on Facebook and Instagram as The Henna Realm (or @thehennarealm). I have a website for people to browse through at www.thehennarealm.com and my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Google: “The Henna Realm”