I grew up surrounded by many different cultures, my own culture alone being such a diverse one with Malay, Chinese and Spanish influences. I am thankful I live in a country where cultural diversity is embraced and celebrated – culture is so very important to learn. Not just yours but others around you.
I applaud those that strive to educate themselves about culture with an open-mind and teach their children to do the same.
This does so much for our society, one of the most important is to break down the barriers of prejudice and bigotry.
I like to look at my life like a great big art canvas. I’m inspired by everything I learn in life and the different cultures I come to know and I love to incorporate them into my life canvas.
Recently I had the pleasure of immersing myself in the world of Indian Art with my little girl at a local artist from Delhi’s private studio in Brampton. I was thrown into a world of lively colours, sparkly jewels, spiritual allegiance and decorative artistry.
The studio and works of Omita Arora in Brampton is just phenomenal! My daughter was just as intrigued and spellbound by her creativity as I was. You can visit her online and learn more about her work at http://www.omitaarora.com.
We learned about how certain pieces of art is used during special events like weddings and that they LOVE to be bedazzled with jewels and lots of colour! One of the popular artistic details used in weddings is Mehndi/Henna.
Mehndi or Henna is a paste that is bought in a cone shaped tube and is made into designs for men and women. In the modern age and even due to limited supply of Indian Traditional Mehndi artists, usually people buy ready-made Henna cones, which are ready to use and make painting easy. However, in rural areas in India, women grind fresh henna leaves on grinding stones with added oil, which though not as refined as professionally prepared henna cones, achieves much darker colors.
Omita makes freshly hand-made super smooth ready to use henna (mehndi) cones made with special Henna powder (see below).
Mehndi in Indian tradition is typically applied during special Hindu weddings and Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Vat Purnima, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and Teej.
In Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet and sometimes on the back of their shoulders too, as men have it applied on their arms, legs, back, and chest. For women, it is usually drawn on the palm, back of the hand and on feet, where the design will be clearest due to contrast with the lighter skin on these surfaces, which naturally contain less of the pigment melanin.
Henna was originally used as a form of decoration mainly for Hindu brides. Muslims of Indian subcontinent also apply Mendi during their festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
In weddings and special events, they also create Rangoli patterns on the floors as not only decoration but for good luck.
Rangoli, also known as kolam or Muggu, is a folk art from India in which patterns are created on the floor in living rooms or courtyards using materials such as colored rice, dry flour, colored sand or flower petals. It is usually made during Diwali, Onam, Pongal and other Indian festivals. They are meant to be sacred welcoming areas for the Hindu deities.
Design depictions may also vary as they reflect traditions, folklore and practices that are unique to each area. It is traditionally done by women. Generally, this practice is showcased during occasions such as festivals, auspicious observances, marriage celebrations and other similar milestones and gatherings.
I really appreciate all the details that go into their special events and weddings. I have been to a few Indian weddings and they are so extravagant – I absolutely love it!
Another cool piece of modernized Indian art, are the hair pieces she creates for special events. One of which is similar to a fascinator. Very unique!
And if you think this is neat, try guessing what the art piece below is made of. My five year old daughter is way too smart and quick that she guessed in literally seconds! Goes to show you that children have superb ingenuity!
Did you guess Onions? Because that is what this is made of – onion peels! Mind blown.
Thank you, Omita, for showing us a taste of Indian culture and sharing your amazing work of art.
Now craving for a taste of Indian food, I decided to mix in a little India to a favourite dish in our culture called Ginataang Kalabasa (or Hipon – if with Shrimp) which is Okra, Butternut Squash and Shrimp in a Coconut Milk.
Using Patak’s Creamy Coconut and Pineapple Sauce, I was able to fuse the flavours and create something absolutely delicious!
This can be eaten alone (which I usually enjoy) or with a side of basmati rice. Delicious! I hope you enjoy mixing in a little India for your next meal with my Creamy Coconut & Pineapple Okra, Squash and Shrimp Recipe.
- Canola Oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 Ginger, cut into pieces
- 1 small tomato, cut into pieces
- 1 cup chicken broth or water
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- 1 small butternut squash, chopped in square pieces
- 2 cups of Okra, cut in pieces or halves
- 1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 pound of ground pork or chicken (I like to add this as well - you may omit)
- 1 can of Patak's Creamy Coconut and Pineapple Sauce
- 1/2 can of Coconut milk
- 1) Heat oil in medium heat in a large pot and cook garlic, onions (don't let the garlic get browned), tomatoes and ginger.
- *If adding ground pork or chicken, add them in now and cook with garlic and onions*
- 2) Add chicken broth or water and then add squash and okra, let simmer for 5 minutes covered
- 3) Add shrimp, Patak's Creamy Coconut and Pineapple Sauce and Coconut Milk. Stir, cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Add over some steamed rice and enjoy!
Disclosure: I am part of the Patak’s Canada Ambassador program with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.