Henna leaves lasting impression on young artists
Samreen Junaid first learned the ancient art of henna in her home country of Pakistan when she was nine years old.
Now, more than 30 years later, she’s sharing her passion with the community in Airdire.
“When I’m in love with something, I have to spread it,” she said, as she showed 15 young aspiring artists how to apply henna at the Airdrie Library’s Junior Artist event on Sept. 21.
Junaid explained that henna, used since the Bronze Age, is derived from a plant typically grown in northern Africa, western and southern Asia, and northern Australia.
“Wherever you get the hottest weather - usually at least 50°C - you get the best henna plants,” she said, adding that the leaves of the plant are ground into a paste with water to produce a dye that stains the skin, hair and other materials like wood and fabric.
While henna is often seen today as a temporary tattoo, Junaid says, traditionally, its purpose is medicinal.
“In these countries, the weather is so hot that the women and even men resist the heat by applying henna on their bodies” she said about the physically-cold feeling the plant produces when applied to the skin.
“You feel cool and start to have happier feelings,” Junaid said, adding the coolness of the plant also heals bones and wounds.
The medicinal power of the plant is what sparked Junaid’s business in Airdrie. She said she was born with a condition where one of her legs was shorter than the other.
“I lived with this most of my life walking on two legs that were different lengths.”
But a few years ago she had a surgery to help correct her leg, and it was then that Junaid said she started applying the henna on herself.
“In the first days after the surgery, I felt myself healing and wanted to share that gift with other people,” she said.
She moved to Canada 11 years ago, and to Airdrie in 2010.
Her business, Traditional Glimpse, was well-received by the residents in Airdrie.
“The city is very ethnically diverse. The people here praise you by your own work and your own style, and were very thankful to me because I was the first to come out and introduce henna to the community.”
Traditional Glimpse is located on Main Street and specializes in free-hand drawn henna services, traditional jewelry and pashmina stoles. More important to Junaid is offering her artistic services to the community through fundraising and educational events, such as the one held at the library.
She also gives sessions in schools to teach kids the difference between traditional and black henna - the latter being mixed with hair dye and chemicals to give a darker colour.
Junaid said that while the black henna gives a similar appearance to a tattoo, it is dangerous for the skin. Regular henna, which is brown in colour, is safe because it is natural and stays on the skin for about two weeks.
“It looks beautiful, it’s good for the body: more people need to know about it,” a testament the kids who participated in the Junior Artists event can attest to.