Henna

Henna is a dye made from a flowering plant, Lawsonia inermis, to dye skin, hair and fingernails. It has been used for thousands of years across many cultures as an important part of ceremonys and rituals.

Freshly applied henna

Carl Bento © Australian Museum

In the north and west of India, Mehendi is an important part of the wedding ceremony. It is believed that the deeper the colour obtained on the skin, the longer the love between the couple will last. The application of Mehendi is like a prayer for everlasting love and a successful marriage.

Mehendi has become popular in the west because women like to decorate their bodies. The dye is temporary, so old designs fade and new designs can be made. Mehendi has cooling properties in summer. Where I am from [Rajasthan], Mehendi is also an important part of religious life.

Padma Jaim

In India, Africa and the Middle East, the art of painting the body from the crushed leaves of the henna plant has been practised for over five thousand years. Henna has long been used to decorate the body for important occasions and celebrations.

In Morocco, henna patterns are used to protect the wearer from evil, and to promote luck and fertility. Henna is regarded as having Baraka (blessing) and it has the power to dispel djinn (evil spirits) who can cause diseases and sterility.

Henna in Sudan means happiness. Through henna, a wife expresses her love for her husband. When a woman does not wear henna, she expresses either grief through death or lack of love. Men wear henna for weddings only in flat colour without design. It is used for hair colouring and strength. It works as a cooling agent for the body.

Thoria Yagoub, Henna Artist


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