Artist Hina Farooq uses henna tattoos for beauty and unity

ByJason Beal Localish logo
Thursday, April 25, 2024
Artist Hina Farooq uses henna tattoos for beauty and unity
April is Arab Heritage Month and Hina Farooq loves sharing the rich history of henna and its Arabic ties.

RICHMOND, Calif. -- April marks Arab-American Heritage Month and one of the beautiful parts of Arab culture is the use of henna, or temporary body art.

"Henna itself comes from a plant. The leaves of it are dry, they're grinded into a powder, and then it's mixed with a few essential ingredients to kind of get that dye content to be released. It actually originated in ancient Egypt and it's been used for centuries to beautify and just for celebrations," said henna artist, Hina Farooq.

The intricate designs vary from country to country.

"The Moroccan traditional henna, you'll see more geometric patterns and you'll see more fine work, versus in Saudi Arabia, you'll see more bold and floral work," shared Farooq. "So, just looking at the henna designs itself, you'll see that there's diversity just in the art."

The art of henna also goes beyond Arab borders. As a Pakistani woman, Farooq says it's common in her culture, too.

"I grew up with it. My elder sister used to put it on us for Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fiitr, and wedding ceremonies, we do henna all the time. I would just steal a cone of hers and start practicing and doodling on myself, and it just became a hobby and now I'm here after 10 years doing it professionally," said Faroq, who showed off her skills as a vendor at Contra Costa College's Arab-American Heritage Month festival.

A student club at the San Pablo-based community college coordinated the event.

"I started the Middle Eastern North Africa Student Union to advocate for Palestine and to get rid of misconceptions about Arabs," said event organizer, Sophie. "Since April is Arab American Heritage Month, we wanted to throw a festival to show off the culture. It allows people to really see Arabs as people."

Arab music rippled throughout the quad as food, clothing, and other vendors offered their products and services to students.

"I think now more than ever it's so important to celebrate the diversity within the Arab culture, especially with what's going on back in Palestine right now," said Farooq.

While Farooq delicately swirled ink across her customers hands, she reflected on using her skills not just for beauty, but as a symbol of unity.

She and other henna artists regularly organize Bay Area fundraisers to help those in need in Palestine, "We would come together in solidarity, stand up for Palestine and show everyone through our art that we're united and we will stand with them."