Saira Hussain started doing henna at the young age of sixteen and has been adorning her clients for fifteen years. As a former OCAD art student, she loves anything artistic and creative. She is obsessed with the world of henna working on many editorial shoots and weddings with her own unique style and flair.
Hussain stresses that henna isn’t just for brides. It is a multidisciplinary art medium used for various purposes in clothing, textiles and ceramics. It is found in India, South Asia, Middle East. Saudi Arabia and Egypt formerly used as art in tribes and caravans. In Saudi Arabia it was used by men on their wives in their mini tribe tents. All the women were veiled in a spiritual way therefore the women tended to look the same. The men would adorn their wives with their own stamp of artwork on their wives hands. When the men would return from their day these veiled women would put their palms out for recognition so they could identify their wives. In South East Asia their patterns of designs represent their land. The King and Queen would have a love story to each other on their hands. In Morocco the patterns are very geometric like their tiles and architecture.
Leaving an imprint
Hussains process isn’t just about the art but about the human connection. “Like a footprint, henna has a fleeting moment then it’s gone. The process of applying it has a healing effect. The visual creation allows you to connect with your body and your feelings and makes you more aware of how powerful we are through this process.”
Traditionally from Rajasthan India, the henna plant is grown in warmer clients. It is a dry soil that is a thin powder texture made from leaves and plants that are crushed which gives a residue that get mixed with oils for colour and consistency. It is generally mixed with tea, water, sugar or lemon juice which turns into a paste. Since it’s all natural It parishes in two days which is why she freezes her henna cones.
White Henna Glam is the modern day version of the traditional usage because it’s white. It’s latex free but synthetic so can’t use it on chemo patients. It’s waterproof and doesn’t come off like natural henna. It stays above the skin on the upper epidermis in it’s form for four days. You don’t pick it off but gentle exfoliation using baby oil and a loofah will remove it.
Do not buy store bought henna in supermarkets, it’s actually commercial use henna because it has textile dies. Black henna has PPD and ammonia and black hair dye. It goes into your bloodstream and causes reactions, swelling, itching and burns which can be permanent! Beware of resorts that do this in salons. It is possible for the product to expire. Your telltale sign: henna is never black.
Healing with Henna
Since henna comes from the earth it is natural and good for healing. She infuses her henna with essential oils like lavender or eucalyptus which also have healing properties. She fills a cellophane cone with the paste, cuts the top and delicately ices the skin like a cake. Based on touch and scent, Hussain applies her designs with good energy. It takes time to apply, sometimes hours. There is a conversation and connection happening with her clients through this creative process.
Henna Crowns and Henna Armour
When Hussain discovered henna crowns she was obsessed with the art form. Henna can be used on patients undergoing chemotherapy or those suffering from alopecia that have lost all their hair. Hussain creates a detailed Henna Crown on the entire head for inner strength and beauty. She got her start in this area by working with Henna Heals – a Canadian foundation that did a shoot for one of her friends. “It became this national thing to empower women and men to give strength in a difficult time of their lives. This became a form of therapy to heal and empower and give a sense of light.”
“As a human being why is hair so important ? It has so much meaning in our lives. How do you feel beautiful or yourself without your hair? To be without it we lose our sense of self.” Henna Amour gives her clients a ritual signifying a new chapter, giving strength and courage. It’s a skin to soul exchange versus a beauty standard. It gives power and challenges what the value of hair means.”
Baby belly adorning is a relaxing spa-type experience where henna is applied to the mothers baby bump. Hussain says “This is wonderful for a woman’s transitioning, warrior stage of life. Your body is experiencing changes as the seed is growing which is a very emotional time.” This process allows the mother to reflect and connect with her body. Sometimes she might get a little kick out it too!
In advance of her appointments Hussain consults with her client beforehand. She does this to get to know her clients energy in order to paint the visual diary images that are valuable to her client. As she is talking and painting, the patterns and lines come out based on the energy exchange she receives. It can take around one hour to two hours depending on the design and the area covered. For full bridal she pre-designs her art rendering which could take about six hours for a full bride look.
When we asked if she has these designs on her own hands Hussain says “She feels her hand must be plain at all times because I will get bored of the design quickly and it interferes with designing on others”. However, she will be doing her own for her wedding this spring! As one of the first North American artists to paint with this medium, Hussain loves the fact there there no toxins in henna. She is an advocate of leaving an imprint on people’s health and to give a soulful realignment that offers courage, strength and beauty.
Find Saira: Instagram: @breathofhenna
Photo credits in order of appearance:
Joee Wong – @thejoee
Aliya Youssef – @aliayphotography
Amsis Photography – @amsisphotography (left), Luminous Weddings – @luminous_weddings (right)
Nizam – @nizamphotography
Tara Noelle – @taranoellephoto
Meraya Studios – @meraya.studios
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/p/BoTDB8ohiQI/
Mother: Sarah Devika. Client’s own: https://www.instagram.com/sarahdevika.snaps/
Joee Wong – @thejoee