erie

Ashol Akol - Henna Vibe Creations

Artist

Folk Art, Visual

Contact: Ashol Akol
Phone: (814) 746-9836
Address:
Erie, Pennsylvania

Email Back to Directory

Artist Statement

Ashol Akol is a henna artist living in Erie. She does original henna designs for the public. She is available to do henna on individuals, at parties, and to do workshops and demonstrations at school or community events.

Engagements start at $150.

She follows all the COVID 19 sanitary guidelines.

History/Biography

Ashol Akol is a henna artist living in Erie. She does original henna designs for the public. She is available to do henna on individuals, at parties, and to do workshops and demonstrations at school or community events.

Engagements start at $150.

She follows all the COVID 19 sanitary guidelines.

 

Biography:

Ashol Akol was born in what is now known as South Sudan. When she was four years old she fled the civil war with her family, first to Egypt and Lebanon, and then to the United States. Ashol is truly bi-cultural. She grew up in a traditional Shulluk home in city of Erie, Pennsylvania. When she is at home, she says she feels like she is in Africa. “I don’t have to travel to Africa, I have people at home who are willing to teach me everything about my culture. In a way, I feel that I am doing a semester abroad when I just go home.” She keeps her Sudanese culture through food, the Shulluk and Arabic languages, clothing, and social and storytelling traditions. She is currently in college studying philosophy. She cites her experience with higher education and helping her adapt and be successful in American culture.

 Ashol is a henna artist. She creates original temporary tattoos using natural henna or other dyes.  Ashol has always loved to make art. Her mother taught her traditional Shulluk beadwork and weaving. In 2018 Ashol formally apprenticed herself to her mother to learn the art of henna. The henna tradition dates back centuries and can be found in many countries and cultures in East and North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Henna is an important element in traditional weddings, where the bride is decorated for her wedding night. Now henna is a way for women to adorn themselves for celebrations. Ashol says, “Henna is about happiness. It is an expression of joy.” Ashol does henna for women in Erie’s Arabic-speaking communities but also for the general public.

Ashol was a part of a prestigious traditional arts apprenticeship grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in 2018, where she and another young Sudanese woman formally studied the culture and traditions of henna from Nialwak Athow, Ashol’s mother and master artist.  Ashol gave a workshop on henna at the 2019 Erie Blues & Jazz Festival, and did a bridal henna demonstration at the 2020 Blues & Jazz Festival which was presented virtually on television. She was an artist-in-residence in the spring of 2020 at McDowell High School. 

 

Artist Statement:

I do henna art because I want to carry on an ancient tradition. Henna is about happiness and joy. Henna connects people. It is so powerful. People in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East practice it. Henna is shared by Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and native spiritual traditions. It promotes women’s empowerment. Henna is very important to mark the rite of passage when women get married. Women do elaborate on the bride to bless her, to show their love, support, and trust in her.

I am multi-cultural, and so is my henna. I know and understand the henna traditions and designs of my Shulluk ethnic group. I also have my own style which is more modern. I “freestyle” henna based on the energy of the person I’m doing henna on.  Each person gets their unique henna tattoo, because everybody is different. I create each design on the spot, much like a jazz musician improvises.

We need henna now, perhaps more than ever. This is a time of great fear and isolation. Henna helps relieve stress, reminds people that they can be beautiful.  People think a lot about their hands now. Instead of just thinking about germs, they can look and see a beautiful design. Even if you wash your hands frequently, my henna designs can last at least one week.

Photos

Henna Vibe Creation 2020<br />
Template

Henna Vibe Creation 2020
Template

Henna Vibe Creation 2019

Henna Vibe Creation 2019

Blues and Jazz festival<br />
2019

Blues and Jazz festival
2019

Blues and azz festival<br />
2020

Blues and azz festival
2020

Henna Vibe Creations<br />
Blues and Jazz Festival 2019

Henna Vibe Creations
Blues and Jazz Festival 2019

Henna Vibe Creations<br />
Self 2019

Henna Vibe Creations
Self 2019