Painting Lives with Henna

Mehndi, or as more people call it, ‘Henna’, is one of my favorite things in the entire world. It is beautiful- one in its own.

Summer is the time when lovely ladies, fun-loving teenagers, and happy pre-teens pay attention to their nails; toes and fingers.

Look down at the feet passing by and you will see green, lavender, orange, shell pink, black, white or shiny red nail polish.

Petite additions of paintings, jewels, press on designs are not uncommon.

 Nails have achieved icon-ic status!


I was wandering about a very eclectic mall in San Francisco one evening. An elegantly decorated booth in brilliant colors and Indian motifs

Attracted my eye and in the end their HANDS.

 Free Henna Tattoos!

I almost jumped out of my skin. I couldn’t have been more excited!

 I sat down next to a young woman dressed in a golden silk sari, her implements and colors carefully laid out.

Charmingly, she offered to do my hands in a traditional floral design.

Hands of a Crone

Hands of a Child

Each adorned.

 “Don’t bump or rub these designs for half an hour, and make sure to keep the paste moist for the next few hours with lemon juice.” the woman in the golden Sari firmly stated.

 I didn’t.

Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient India.

Intricate patterns are most typically applied to brides before wedding ceremonies.

Today they are used in ceremonies and for simple adornment.

The astonishing, intricate, detailed henna designs blend beautifully with the silky SARIS decorated with golden embroidery and jewels.

Henna paste is usually applied on the skin using a plastic cone or a paint brush, but sometimes like I discovered, a small metal-tipped jacquard bottle used for silk painting is used. (Also by my personal experience, the metal-tipped kind is much, much easier to use!)

Slowly squeezing the bottle (no shaky hands allowed!) the paste is applied like cake frosting. One line builds upon another, scrolls, leaves, floral shapes, blend into one another creating a masterpiece for the skin.

I was pleased as punch with my newly decorated hands!

The designs lasted for several weeks. But as time passed the designs slowly faded to a blush of pale brown.
I always hate when the art fades away, but luckily pictures
last a lifetime.


About WhatElenaDoes

I'm just a conundrum wrapped in an enigma stuffed into your back pocket.
This entry was posted in Art, August 2011, Projects. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Painting Lives with Henna

  1. shamscribe says:

    I love henna too! I’m indian so I use it quite frequently. The smell is just gorgeous!

  2. This is a smart blog. I mean it. You have so much knowledge about this issue, and so much passion. You also know how to make people rally behind it, obviously from the responses. Youve got a design here thats not too flashy, but makes a statement as big as what youre saying. Great job, indeed.

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