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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

North African henna, just to entice you

Around here, "henna" is so strongly associated with India in people's minds that many simply don't realize that it was and is used for decoration by many, many cultures.  So here's a fun little exercise for you:

Get out a world map, put your fingertips on Morocco, and drag your hand east until you get to Thailand.  Every place that your hand touched in between, from the south shore of the Mediterranean Sea along North Africa through Turkey and into the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and on over, is a place where henna grows naturally – and thus, a place where henna has been used, for literally thousands of years.

So a few weeks ago, I had this terrific henna gig over on campus, for a student bellydance group who were hosting an all-day workshop.  I had a phenomenal time, partly because I got to break into my catalog of traditional North African motifs, which I don't usually get to do.  Many of the dancers promised me pictures of their henna – because of course, I forgot to bring the camera, again – but so far only Wendi, one of the event organizers, has sent me anything.

Not that I'm complaining, since hers was one of the largest designs I did all day.  Behold:

Wendi North African

North African is characterized by straight lines, triangle and diamond shapes, and asymmetrical layout, compared to the curvy, often floral-inspired forms of traditional Indian henna.  For this one, I started with a single straight line from Wendi's fingertip up her forearm, and then built around it.  If you zoom in, you'll see that the grid at the base of her fingers, and the eight-pointed star below that, both incorporate the line as it continues on its merry way.

In honor of the event and Wendi's hard work organizing it, I decided to finish by turning the line into a row of "dancing women" twirling past her wrist and up her forearm.

Wendi originally posted this image to her Facebook page; you can read her own impressions here.

Stay warm, everyone.

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