Sunday, 19 June 2011
One of my teacher friends asked me if I knew mehendi hand painting or ' inai ' as it is called in Bahasa Malaysia and could I do it for her daughter who was getting married............
Well... now, that was something I had not learned as yet but you know me, I'm always on the lookout for a learning adventure.................and so I asked several mehendi hand painters if they could teach me this skill. Funny thing is , all of those whom I asked , were not willing to pass their knowledge despite me telling them that I'd pay whatever fee requested.
Left with no choice but to learn it myself, I bought several books on henna painting, bought the necessary supplies and started my practise on A4 sized tracing/greaseproof papers. Practise, practise and more practise - that's what I did daily and while researching on henna painting, I also discovered that it was also one of the oldest form of body painting/ tattooing .
Henna painting is done on the hands and feet of the bride as part of her wedding preparation and this tradition has not been broken since the Bronze Age in the predominantly Indo-Arabic world. Henna designs/patterns mirrors the art of the period of each community/country and also their cultural and foreign influence - eg Indo European designs of florals and paisley or Indo Arabic designs reflecting geometric patterns and symbols of luck . They can be as complicated as roadmaps or simple as right angled squares. It depends on the henna artist and her expertise and creativity.
To those who want to know or try how to make a henna mix , the ingredients are relatively simple and easy to find in your kitchen. A packet of raw henna powder is mixed with enough fresh lemon juice ( strained), a few tablespoons of liquid black coffee ( this is optional). Add a few drops of essential oil - lavender or tea tree makes the paste easy to flow. Mix all the ingredients in a ceramic bowl thoroughly without any lumps and leave it overnight to develop the colour. Use greaseproof paper cones or small plastic icing bags to fill the henna paste . That's it, it's that simple and easy to prepare.
The actual work starts with the practise and boy, if you do want to make a go of it, make sure you have plenty of filled henna cones and even more practise papers ! The finer and more detailed patterns take time to master but are very beautiful to look. You can also do henna painting on your forearm or on your back shoulder - sort of like tattoo designs . It makes interesting conversation piece and also shows off your creativity .
Incidently, you can use the same henna mix for your hair too but you have to leave it on your hair for a good 5 hours for it to have any effect. Your hair will have a beautiful and lustrous sheen and be healthy and soft. The only precaution you must take is that you cannot use it on hair which has been chemically coloured. Wait till the chemical colour has worn off and then apply the henna paste. Shampoo off after 4 - 5 hours and apply your usual conditioner ( if you want to ) as henna is a natural colourant and conditioner by itself. I've practised this myself ( in my ahem... younger days ......) and can vouch for this. The reason why I have not been a regular practitioner is that I can't find time to sit around for 5 hours with a headful of henna paste covered with a bathing cap!
If you don't mind the messing of your hands with henna stains, it is worth the effort to learn this art. It's like painting too, immensely satisfying when you look at your finished handiwork!
My handiwork on a bride to be......
Ooops! I couldn't get the picture in the right position even though I tried umpteen times........
Happy reading and painting