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The inner truth hidden beneath the outer layers of a mandala - the profound, rooted love represented by astronomical symbols, the vitality and fertility expressed through leaves and paisleys. As a child I excitedly sat to have my hands decorated with henna on holidays by family members, enamored by the structure of geometric Middle Eastern designs, stories behind blossoming Indian designs, and creativity in unique African designs.
Until I moved away from my primarily South Asian community in Edison, New Jersey, I took the artistry of henna for granted. Once my youthful curiosity and wonder faded, I saw henna merely as a one-dimensional art, believing it simply aligned me with the negative stereotypes I saw about members of the South Asian community. Scared to wield culture as a defining aspect of my personal identity, I desperately hoped to be less Indian, less Pakistani, less “fobby” than my peers, my family, and my entire hometown.
Transitioning to an extremely diverse environment in Southern California nearly 3,000 miles from where I grew up led me to finally delve into the various symbols and historical elements behind the cultural practice and designs: in my new melting-pot esque environment I considered if I was allowing...
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