Henna artist Shelina Syed (left) with her twin sister Shameen Syed (right). Participants at the event were able to leave with a cone of henna to take home with them and practice creating designs. Photo credit: Zaynab Safa

Algonquin College students gathered at the MakerSpace in the Dare District on Feb. 22 to sit down with henna artist Shelina Syed and learn all about henna, from its cultural origins to how to create designs.

“I’m teaching basic skills of henna and going through different patterns that they can create,” said Syed at the afternoon event. She has been working with henna since the age of 13.

The accessible workshop was part of the Creative Collisions series that is hosted by the Centre for Accessible Learning.

The art of henna has been practiced in Pakistan, Syed’s country for origin, for centuries. It is also practiced in India, Africa and the Middle East and is connected to many different cultural events.

Henna is a paste that leaves a temporary stain on the skin, and it contains lawsone, a reddish-orange dye. It is known by many various names around the world, including Henne and AL-Hanna.

“I’m here because I find this event very interesting,” said Fabiana Ferraresso a student navigator. “I also help with the AC Hub to produce social media content. I attend events and see what’s going on. It’s really nice because you get to put your hands on what’s going on, because you get to feel the experience with the students.”

Farreresso enjoying the activity with other students gathered around
Fabiana Ferraresso, a student navigator with the AC Hub, enjoyed the activity with other students gathered around.

Many students go to various events with friends to share these kinds of experiences together, while others attend every event they can find the time to go to.

“We have many regulars who are really familiar with the space now and are even helping other students,” said Zeynep Guzide a disabilities counsellor with CAL. “We have students that volunteer and ambassadors of the program who are showing others how to use the space and sometimes we have one-timers who come in.”

One participant at the event who was eager to learn too was Syed’s twin sister, Shamee.

“I’m here out of curiosity on henna and to support my sister,” she said. “For today, I was more curious on the outcome and how she was running the entire show of it all.”

Students who attended the event were able to leave with a cone of henna to take home with them after practicing designs in the workshop.