Once a month I am going to interview an artist, starting with my local colleagues, and then expanding to artists across the country and the world. I am interested in learning more about what makes creative people tick and so it makes sense to me to learn from the professionals.
Anita Bhakta, of Hennasphere, is a henna artist based near Sea World in San Diego. She was born in Montreal, but her family moved to San Diego when she was 4. She has lived in San Diego for most of her life with one short detour to Chicago while her husband was in graduate school.
She grew up in a Pakistani household and was surrounded by elements of her parents’ culture, but was also influenced by San Diego’s laid-back attitudes. She went to UCSD for her undergraduate studies, majoring in Biology with a Spanish Literature minor, and after that went to Cal State Northridge to earn her MA and teaching credential. Her “day job” is teaching special education.
As a child, Anita was always fascinated with mehndi (the Hindi word for henna), and loved to watch her aunties apply intricate designs at bridal showers and other celebrations. As a child, she would try her hand at henna, especially on her most willing subject, her mother! She went to beauty school in India and learned all the steps involved in preparing a bride for her wedding: from make-up, hair, clothing, waxing, threading to making the mehndi paste and applying the traditional designs. “I was most enamored by the henna portion of the training” ,” said Anita. “It gave me the confidence and skills I needed to do bridal henna, the ultimate challenge. Upon my return the States, I created Hennasphere”.
Doing henna feels natural to Anita. When she draws on people, “it just comes and flows. I draw a flower and then something comes out of that and becomes a leaf or a vine or something else.” Anita said she feels that she is a just a vessel. “God has given me a gift and keeps putting it through me.”
Traditional henna designs are collections of simple elements that are repeated and arranged in an artful way. Anita finds that practicing henna is similar to meditation. “I feel so relaxed and in the moment when I do henna.”
Anita strongly feels that her business, Hennasphere, is more than just a henna service. She wanted to create a company that was earthy and natural since henna is from the earth. Hennasphere was conceived as a series of concentric circles rippling from a strong center of faith and love, with wider circles encompassing beautifying the world through henna, sharing her knowledge with others, connecting with the wider community, and giving back to the world through donations. A portion of Hennasphere’s profits go to support charitable projects; she has given to an organization in the Philippines that provides free cleft palate surgery to needy children, and helped an orphanage in Pakistan as well as Casa de los Pobres in Tijuana.
Future plans for Hennasphere include adding pizzaz to her henna studio, more collaborations with other artists in different fields, and fine tuning small details of Hennasphere that will take it to higher spheres/stratospheres…???.
For Anita, henna is just the beginning, and there is no limit in sight to what she can do.