A lover of all cultures: Indigenous henna artist learns East Indian skill

As someone who loves all cultures, Tiana Cappo says she embraced learning how to do henna art, even though her roots are Indigenous rather than Indian. Now she's started up a side business offering the Indian temporary tattoos.

'All these different things in one country, it's just beautiful,' says Regina artist Tiana Cappo

Tiana Cappo has improved her henna art skills considerably since she started, and now says she enjoys trying new patterns all the time, whether that's traditional Indian ones, or even ones that come from her own Indigenous culture. (Queen City Henna)

The woman behind the intricate designs of Queen City Henna is full of surprises.

Tiana Cappo is a kinesiology student at the University of Regina, and she has a full-time retail job.

She's also not Indian. Rather, her roots are mainly Indigenous.

But she's always been interested in other people and their backgrounds, and was fascinated to learn more about this Indian art form, when a Sikh co-worker first brought her a gift of henna.

"My culture has been here forever. Why can't I take time to get to know yours?" she said, in an interview with Saskatchewan Weekend.

"They can teach me. All these different things in one country, it's just beautiful."

Tiana Cappo says learning how to create henna designs didn't come easily, but with practice it's become a rewarding way to explore different designs. (Shauna Powers/CBC)

Initially though, she greeted her co-worker's gift with a bit of skepticism.

"Woah, what the heck am I going to do with that? Number one, I cannot actually draw," she recalled of her reaction, laughing.

Learning how to use the henna cone didn't come easily. The first attempts were difficult, as her hand cramped up and the designs didn't fulfil her artistic vision. But she kept practising.

"One day, it just kind of clicked in my mind. For two hours, I was going by myself. My hand was not hurting," she said, adding the end result was "the most beautiful one I've ever seen in my life."

Eventually, she decided to start up her own side business, starting an Instagram and Facebook account for Queen City Henna to promote her work, and to share her love of the art. 

"Henna is a natural substance," she said, noting the henna paste comes from a plant, and contains essential oils that are themselves soothing. 

"It's dyeing your skin in such a beautiful way."

There's a lot of good energy and love going into this art.- Tiana Cappo

She's explored all sorts of designs, from traditional East Indian to Indigenous patterns.

There are only a few areas she has yet to venture. Once a friend looked her in the eye, and asked seriously, "Can you tattoo my butt cheek?"

That request was met with a firm no.

But otherwise, Cappo said she's open to possibilities, and to delivering what people ask for. 

After the paste dries and is removed, it leaves a dark red stain. The pattern will wash away after several days. (Queen City Henna/Instagram)

"They have their vision of what they want. And I have my vision of what I can do. I try my best to meet the expectations of what their vision [is]," she said.

People are amazed with the results, and that amazement from the East Indian community is particularly gratifying, she said.

"There's a lot of good energy and love going into this art."

With files from Saskatchewan Weekend.