Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick holds henna art demonstration

·2 min read
In honour of Asian Heritage month, the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick held a henna art demonstration on Saturday. (Mrinali Anchan/CBC - image credit)
In honour of Asian Heritage month, the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick held a henna art demonstration on Saturday. (Mrinali Anchan/CBC - image credit)

Much has changed since Madhu Verma, the founder of the Asian Heritage Society of New Brunswick, first came to the province in 1963 as a young Indian bride.

Verma said she faced racism regularly when she first came to Canada.

Back then, when she wore cultural clothing — such as Kurtis — her looks would elicit unwelcoming glares.

Verma said: "They would stop me and say, 'Oh. When did you come here? Why are you here?'"

But times are changing.

Mrinali Anchan/CBC
Mrinali Anchan/CBC

"I sometimes tell people that I am the first imported bride in North America ... now things are very different. We are really enjoying with so many new immigrants, the new friends."

Now Verma is proud to look out at a room filled with people from different backgrounds and watch them eagerly learn about her culture.

The Asian Heritage Society is putting on several events in honour of Asian Heritage month, including one in Fredericton on Saturday that allowed people to discover the intricacies of henna art.

Henna — also known as mehndi in Hindi and Urdu — is a maroon dye created from the leaves of the henna tree. The dye is used to create intricate floral designs that can last up to 20 days.

The origin of the designs dates back as far as 6,000 years and is traditionally done during special events in South Asian, Middle Eastern and North African cultures.

Priyanka Panwar came to New Brunswick seven years ago.

She is part of the society and has been helping put on events like this demonstration.

For her, the passion for henna came when she won a contest in university for her henna art.

Mrinali Anchan/CBC
Mrinali Anchan/CBC

Later, she spent six hours perfecting the henna tattoos on her hands and feet for her wedding. Marriage ceremonies aren't the only special occasions where it's used.

"I normally do it every year during Karva Chauth, it is a day when we ladies keep fast in our Hindu religion for our husbands to have a long life."

For both Panwar, and especially for Verma, educating people about why they might see henna patterns adorning some people's skin, goes hand in hand with trying to create more understanding and tolerance between cultures.

"The message we want to give is to make new friends, have communication, go visit, see other programs and also talk to us," Verma said.

"If you want to ask any question about Asian culture we want to have a conversation with you."

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