Pakistan’s First Parenting Magazine

New Tricks for an Old Art

Sara Musharaf, an artist par excellence taking a local art to soaring heights on international skies

By Sundus Zafar

Sara is an inspiring and extraordinary henna artist based in Hong Kong. A talented young female with a creative, artistic mind and swift, precise fingers, She handles her very own Henna business, and promotes the art of Henna as well as other aspects of the Pakistani culture, abroad.

Sara has been attached to Henna Art since her childhood, a time when she used to watch her mother apply Henna for brides on their special occasion. Having always loved drawing and sketching and being good at it, one day, she just started doodling with a Henna cone instead of a pencil. It never occurred to the 6 year old girl who had just found a new hobby that in the future, this would become a full fledge business. Today, Sara’s Henna is known all across Hong Kong, because Sara, a dedicated soul, decided to go with the flow, and see where things lead her, grabbing every opportunity on the way.

‘Sara’s Henna’ was born in Hong Kong! In Pakistan, every other lady calls herself a henna artist, or in other words, a ‘mehndi-wali’. Sarah believes that in Pakistan, Henna Art is highly underrated and people look at it just as a way of decorating their hands and nothing else. She, thus, started her business in Hong Kong, a country where this art form was new and where people would understand fully it’s power and potential.

Talking about how exactly her business took off, Sara told us that ‘Sara’s Henna’ started on a whim at Hong Kong’s first ever handmade arts and crafts outdoor market, four years ago. “I got a small table/ booth and I sat there on my own with 6 henna cones and nothing else. My idea was to just henna people and introduce this beautiful traditional art form to Hong Kong. To this day, that’s the first and foremost aim of my business.” She also goes on to mention that she has a great network of entrepreneurial women in Hong Kong who encouraged her to take the giant leap and convert her hobby into a business. Social media, Facebook in particular, helped immensely in spreading the word about Sara’s Henna and is crucial to the expansion and management of the business even to this day.

Sara attributes a large part of her success, and the ease with which she managed to establish herself, to luck. “I think I was very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time, with a novelty service, and a tool and talent that required no financial support.” The only hurdle she encountered was her inability to speak the local language of Hong Kong. This made communication with the customers hard, but she still managed very well.

She mentions that during tough times her family and friends were a source of great comfort and support for her. Sara speaks passionately about her mother and the beautiful bond they share, despite their occasional disagreements. She admits that it was extremely hard to get her mother on board with the idea of her running a henna business. “At first she didn’t agree with my business. Being a religious woman, she didn’t like me using the human body as a canvas for my henna art. Now however, she has come to understand that this is what I love and what i am passionate about. She now supports me fully in my business, but never holds back in keeping me grounded, for which, I am grateful to her. She is the sole reason I have never let my success get to my head. She has always told me, ‘the minute you start to think of yourself as somebody or have any kind of ego about yourself or your work, it will all disappear, and you will be left with nothing’.”

We then talked to Sara about the henna designs themselves. She says that she is a nature-lover and finds inspiration in natural beauty present all around her, be it in the form of clouds floating in the sky, seashells that get washed ashore or even a spider web. She hates sketching designs out on paper before she tattoos them on the body. She enjoys her ideas flowing directly onto the skin, in the form of Henna, and take shape spontaneously. She only sketches her ideas and gets them approved beforehand when she has to do Henna for brides on their important day.

Apart from henna art being used for decoration of the body, Sara saw it as a tool for change, a tool that could create magic and happiness. Her project, anatomical Henna is extremely unique, one that Sara has found to be the most exciting to date. It is the portrayal of anatomy by embedding anatomical codes in beautiful henna patterns. These make learning easy and more interesting for university students.

“The pretty designs are merely just a distraction. It is those few minutes shared with a stranger while doing their henna tattoo that are important. My henna is used to tell stories, to make a young girl undergoing chemotherapy feel confidant and special, to make a pregnant woman feel beautiful.” When asked to describe a particularly memorable incident to us, Sara recounted the story of her visit to the Children’s Cancer Hospital in Karachi at their Eid carnival where, she tattooed a Henna crown to a young patients head. “Maryam stole my heart with the beaming smile she rewarded me with when she saw her glittery henna-ed head. She felt and looked like a princess and the doctors told me that she had never looked happier than she did while she was twirling around proudly, showing off her baldhead with her henna crown. I’ve not forgotten her beautiful smile to this day.”

We then asked Sara about how, apart from her Henna tattoos, she promotes Pakistani culture in Hong Kong. She told us that she loves Pakistani culture and has tried to keep it alive in herself. She wears traditional clothes such as kurtis and long shirts when she attends events, and people in Hong Kong loved them so much that she has recently launched her own line of Pakistani clothing in the country. These colourful and stylish ready-to-wear outfits are emblazoned with her very own henna designs in the form of embroidery or paint, incorporating rickshaws, truck art, and other symbols of Pakistani culture.

Sara uses Henna designs to not only decorate the human body and design clothes but also to decorate jewellery boxes, canvases, and even edible items such as cupcakes. Being a restless person who loves experimenting and trying new things, she introduced Henna designs into many new mediums, and managed to create masterpieces that rapidly gained immense popularity. She has recently designed her first Henna heels and is currently working on a Henna mural for a refugee centre in Hong Kong. She also has many workshops planned, including one in Vietnam, so that she can pass on the gift of this art to others. In addition to this, she plans on publishing Asia’s first Henna coffee table book, soon.

Sara is an extremely devoted, down-to-Earth individual who has successfully created a name for herself in a foreign country while promoting her own culture. She is a source of inspiration for all those aspiring to start their very own business.

To those who need nothing but a small push in the right direction, towards fulfilling their dream, this is what Sara has to say to you. “Dreams + Passion + Determination + Motivation = a recipe for happiness and success! If you have the talent, and the passion for something, let yourself dream big and don’t let anyone deter you from what you want to do! It really is as easy as these three little words: Just Do it! But always remember, don’t forget your identity, stay grounded, stay grateful, and stay true to yourself!”

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