I was born and raised in Ras Tanura, a small town bordering the Persian Gulf in Saudi Arabia. I grew up with people from all over the world, who had also made their home in Ras Tanura. During my childhood my family welcomed traditions from both Indian and Saudi culture – my brother and I grew up listening to ghazals by Jagjit Singh and Kailash Kher while eating zaatar from local Saudi bakeries. This is also when I developed my first passion of photography.
The annual Eid festivals brought so much festivity, music and diversity to our community, featuring camel rides on the beach, traditional Arab henna, free food and tons of music and dancing. I started seeing the way that henna, or mehndi, was a big part of celebrations in both cultures that I grew up with, and that helped me build a common thread across my art today.
Coming to the US to begin college was interesting and it’s been an incredible journey since then. I studied in Texas my freshman year and got to see through certain Texan and American stereotypes, and met fun, loving people who had grown up in Texas their whole life. After that year I moved to Long Island, NY for the rest of college and I loved my experience at Stony Brook University. I learned about business culture through different perspectives, worked as an event photographer at my school newspaper and built lifelong friendships and bonds.
It was awesome to see how my friends in the US reflected friends back home – different cultures, perspectives, religions, backgrounds coming together to build a bond over what we had in common. Eventually my friend groups even ended up meeting and it was amazing to see.
Though I was really interested in photography and henna growing up, I found my creative side in fashion senior year of college when I started out hand-designing two white baseball caps, and hung them up on my wall in my dorm room. The summer after I graduated, I decided to make it a business and started by creating social media pages and inviting my immediate group of friends and acquaintances. Over time, it evolved into more than Henna Hats. Saher Jafri Arts showcases art and apparel fusing my South Asian, Middle Eastern and Western perspectives.
I love the details behind henna, and in my designs, I use digital henna on streetwear apparel or simply just as art. I’ve found a community through events, mutual friends and Instagram where I can feel free to express myself with different mediums and make mistakes too. My background and experiences from my childhood definitely helped me battle the fear of putting myself out there, and I’m still doing my best to keep growing.