“Henna” by Jasemin Sibo

If you think poetry is boring, think again. In Jasemin Sibo’s latest poetic novella “Henna”, storytelling  just got better!

The series of narrative poems begin in the Golden Indochine era in the year 800 to a time of upheaval in Southeast Asia in the mid 1970s. It tells the tale of Apsaras, exotic Cambodian royal ballerinas, with a particular focus on a dancer named “Henna”. These female artisans of exquisite grace and beauty were believed to be celestial.

A master of words, Jasemin’s play of impactful words, poetic devices and vivid descriptions are commendable. She sets your imagination on fire! This work is also a perfect example of “be more with less” as it captures the essence of a traditional novel. The minimalist use of words in each page enables reflections and flows in an easy-to-follow manner.

Readers are opened up to a world “where harshness and cruelty are softened by grace and tenderness” and “like a dragon, you spout fire when you hear the innocent cry” with one food for thought: “I see you evil, I see that you are not born evil”.

Jasemin connects with the readers through evoking empathy  in subtle ways. I think the best reading time will be just before bedtime as you drift into slumberland dreaming the story through the night. You do risk losing sleep though, like yours truly, as I just could not turn the pages fast enough!

As a bonus, the book contains vibrant photos of real life Apsara dancers and of Ipoh-born Jasemin during her travels. Did I mention that the pages are wonderfully graced by intricate Henna designs?

“The inspiration from Henna came from my visit to Seam Reap Cambodia, reverence for literary greats like the Ramayana, Iliad & Odyssey, passion in performing arts including cultural & modern dance and weaving various beautiful cultures together,” Jasemin shared with Ipoh Echo. It took her around one year to compile everything together.

“I’d like the main message of Henna to be about hope. It was written to give hope to women young and old. Plus, there is beauty in history and ancient performing arts. The Indochine region is rich with artistic and cultural influences from religion, visual arts, ancient performing arts, political regimes and ruling kingdoms,” she added. The title “Henna” was chosen as it is a popular Indian body art which most people can identify with in relation to Hindu culture.

Priced at RM50 each (just for Ipohites!), interested readers can email the international author at Henna is printed as a limited edition. However, Jasemin is planning for a small book event in Ipoh in the coming months, stay tuned!

Her earlier novellas include “Epiphany!: A Collection of True Tragic Turned Candid Love Stories” and “Zhu Pearl: Daughters of War”.

Mei Kuan

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