Henna- an goopy brownish paste with an earthy smell that somehow has the power to create stunning temporary body art that is traditionally used in some African and South Asian countries. This past term I took a student-led workshop and learned how to do my own henna! As part of the workshop we practiced on other students, some elderly people at a retirement home, and kids at a fundraiser. The photos above are some of the designs I did on myself and other people.
I was captivated by how intricate traditional henna designs could be. Since everything is freehand, it takes a lot of practice to get consistent and evenly sized/shaped patterns. It takes a steady hand to make even lines and smooth shapes. Another important component of henna designs is good composition. The ones in the photos above are pretty straightforward in terms of composition since they are medallions - one large central element. Many other designs, such as vines and flowers require more careful thought and planning to create a beautifully flowing design that looks balanced and feels dynamic.
I love this medium because it feels like a performance. The henna is applied freehand to the skin and for about a week or so it displays itself as a beautiful dark temporary tattoo, which then fades. My hand can be a canvas over and over again for new art.