Hi! My name is Saira (Like Tyra, but with an ‘S’).This artistic endeavor is about the art of healing.
I started doing mehndi (henna) when I was small. It was used at Eid ceremonies (the celebration at the end of the month of Ramadan) and weddings mostly. My mom would apply it on me with a toothpick, which didn’t make for the most intricate of designs, but the act of putting it on with all the ladies is still vivid in my mind. One time, around the age of 8ish years old, I was called to take the role call down to the principal’s office. I walked up to the front of the classroom and held out my hand to collect the envelope. My teacher jumped at the site of my painted palms and told me to wash my hands. I tried to explain how it is called mehndi, and it was Eid, so it was part of the celebratory nature of the ceremony. Trying to explain this in front of my whole class, while my teacher just thought I was dirty, made me feel out of place and embarrassed. After that, I refused to wear mehndi on my palms, except on the random special occasion throughout my adolescence.
Fast forward to 2018, four years after having moved to Oregon for a job as an urban planner. I quit my job and proceeded to go on a journey to India. Well… at least it started in India. Without knowing where I was off to next, I let the universe gently guide me through the world. One of the biggest themes of this journey was freeing deeply rooted and suppressed baggage. On the outside, I had been an urban planner. Executive Director. Student of places. But on the inside, I have always been an artist. A musician. A dancer. When the time came to return to the states, I knew that I had to make a switch. The responsible working woman would take the back seat, and the artist must come forward. An act of vulnerability and trust.
I found that applying mehndi for me was not only a form of artistic expression, but a form of healing. Diving into this cultural expression helped me with past trauma. I realized I’ve been an artist my whole life, playing around with different mediums. But this. This IS my medium. The give and take of sharing my art and history with people, while they received my offerings, pushed me to study mehndi design when I made it to India. After working with a 17-year-old mehndi artist for a few weeks, I took my newfound skill and put it to the test. I traded mehndi for food, beer and cash as I traveled around the world, practicing and exploring.
Now I’m back. Reconnecting with Buffalo roots. Before I can go further out into the world, I must go deeper in. As I navigate through this healing time, I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m embracing my inner artist. Everybody’s medicine is different, and some comes in unexpected ways. Not only is this an act of healing for me, but I see the healing that takes place in others, through close human touch and connection. My focus these days is to create connections with people and spread out through the world with a fierce velocity. Moving deeply inward, so I can spread the love outward… Creative expression through mehndi.