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The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Calla Paragiri’s henna bring hands to hearts

According to Calla Paragiri, she has enjoyed both art and henna since she was very young. Now she has started to do henna herself.

Holding the cones with precision, junior Calla Paragiri taught herself the art of henna. The craft allows her to employ her artistic skills while simultaneously tying her to her Indian roots.

In June, 2023, Calla Paragiri began doing henna. She has since done henna at events hosted at the high school, including a Diwali celebration hosted by the South Asian Student Alliance (SASA) and the Asian Pacific American Club on Nov. 15, 2023, as well as during the Day of Racial Reform and Solidarity, on Dec. 6, 2023, at a booth for SASA. Though henna started as a hobby for her, Calla Paragiri said that she hopes to turn it into a business.

Henna, a plant-based dye containing a natural pigment, has been practiced in India, Pakistan, Africa and the Middle East for more than 5,000 years. It was originally used by people in hot desert climates because of its natural cooling properties and medicinal purposes; however, in the present day, people use it decoratively for temporary body art.

According to Calla Paragiri, as a child she was not as in touch with her Indian culture as she is now. However, whenever she traveled to India, she would get her henna done, a process that she said was both fun and culturally significant.

“It’s incorporating art with culture because, growing up, I lived back in Colombia. My dad is from India and I was never really exposed to that side of my family’s culture,” Calla Parigiri said.

Calla Paragiri’s father, Neil Parigiri, said that because the family isn’t able to travel to India frequently, henna has become a great way for his daughter to feel closer to the Indian part of her culture.

“We don’t get to visit her roots in India too often and the last time when she went there was years and years ago before the pandemic and when she was much younger. So in some ways, I know she’s always curious to relate to those kinds of heritage she has in India,” Neil Parigiri said. “She feels a bit closer to her roots by exploring and practicing her skills in art, so it brings her a little bit closer in terms of emotionally.”

Neil Paragiri said that Calla Paragiri has done an exceptional job learning to do henna, despite the challenges of working on such a small surface.

“The thing with the henna is because the surface she has to paint is so small, you know your wrist or your hand and your legs, so the canvas you have to work with on a body is very, very small so she has to use very precise moments and she has to control her skills to draw or paint with the henna,” Neil Paragiri said.

Calla Paragiri said she hopes to grow her business by creating an Instagram page where she can post her work, which will help people learn about her business and create interest. Her dad said that she is a motivated and hardworking person and that he is excited to watch as she attempts to become an entrepreneur and grow her business.

“As a parent, I’m excited that she’s on her own trying to say, ‘Hey, maybe there’s some interesting things I can do.’ I’m happy for her. I want her to explore, to expand her interests, expand her business,” Neil Parigiri said.

Sophomore Mia Betts, a friend of Calla Paragiri, said that she’s a bubbly, sweet person who is welcoming to everyone. Betts said she’s impressed by Calla Paragiri’s artwork, as she is able to create things individual to her style.

Since Calla Paragiri is a new student from a different country, she said that henna has been a great way to connect with others and she enjoys striking up conversations during the process. Betts said that Calla Paragiri has also been able to bond with people in regard to her South Asian heritage.

“She’s been able to connect to other people, just even culturally, through her henna,” Betts said. “I think everyone has been able to recognize it was a little bit hard for coming over, adjusting, meeting new people, things like that.”

Calla Paragiri said that henna uses her love of art while also exposing her to a side of her identity that she hasn’t explored very much.

“It’s a blend between my passion and my culture,” Calla Paragiri said. “I didn’t have much exposure. So I wasn’t able to really have many friends who shared the same identity as me and get to know every aspect of it. So it’s just very small, but it makes an effort towards, ‘if I wear it to school, I feel proud of it.’”

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