Student honours culture through teaching henna

Soon-to-be grad Shelina Syed hosted a henna workshop for the AC community
Photo: Supplied by source
Three different designs of henna done by Shelina Syed.

An exciting event displaying henna art to raise awareness about its cultural importance took place in the E-Building Test Centre on March 26. It was organized by Shelina Syed, a fourth-year student in the early learning and community development program.

To Syed, henna is a unique admiration she can connect with.

“Henna, to me, is a form of meditation. It is a form of art,” she said. “I am part Pakistani, part First Nations and it’s my way of being able to connect with my Pakistani roots.”

She discussed her 13 years of experience working with henna. Syed noted that henna originally came from Egypt as a natural plant with leaves that produce a staining paste when combined with water, sugar, lemon juice and essential oils. This paste is traditionally used for decorative designs on the skin, providing cooling properties that rulers in hot regions typically enjoy.

Syed’s event was about practising the artistic aspect of henna and building community and cultural awareness among the student body.

“I think the benefit is to bring awareness to a different art form of a different culture, and it’s acknowledging different cultures for what they have to offer,” she said. “It’s an overall community building.”

Syed’s workshop offers henna application methods and delves deep into the cultural aspect. Her passion for henna does not lie only in workshops. She also facilitates a drop-in group called Glitter and Gab at the Student Health and Wellness Zone every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., during which students engage in various art activities.

While reflecting on her henna journey, Syed pointed out the need for everyone to be involved, saying, “just because you might not be the culture that henna originates from doesn’t mean that you can’t learn about it.”

Her promotion of cultural appreciation and artistic freedom strikes a chord with students at Algonquin College, who find value in attending her workshops and events. Syed uses the handle @hennabyshanna on Instagram to display her henna art and form relationships with like-minded individuals fascinated by this age-old craft. As she will soon complete her studies at Algonquin College, she highlighted her work organizing workshops on henna that have left an impression on the culture and the mind.

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