Body of design

By Our Reporter

Though temporary as a tattoo, with its varied hues and uses, henna is becoming a permanent fixture in the world of beauty

The art of henna has been practiced for over 5,000 years in Indian Subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East. There is some documentation that this ancient art, called mehendi in Hindi and Urdu, is over 9,000 years old. Because henna has natural cooling properties, people of the desert, for centuries, have been using henna to cool down their bodies.

In ancient Egypt, mummies wore henna designs, and it is documented that Cleopatra used henna for decorative purposes. Henna was not only a popular adornment for the rich, but even for those who could not afford jewellery as they used it to decorate their bodies.

Body art dates to the Roman Empire and ancient Egypt, but in contemporary society, it has a life span somewhere between wash-off tats sold in arcade vending machines and Mike Tyson’s infamous face tattoo.

Since the 90s, henna has become a very popular form of temporary body decoration in the US and the rest of the world. Celebrities like Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Yasmine Bleeth, Liv Tyler, Xena, and many others proudly adorn their bodies with henna and show them off in public, movies, videos, etc. People throughout the west have adopted the eastern tradition in their lives by having their hands and feet painted for weddings, bellies painted while in pregnancy, heads adorned with henna while going through chemotherapy, scars camouflaged to make them unnoticeable, etc.

Nilima is a well-known name in the bridal industry for her henna and makeup art. She is an internationally acclaimed henna and makeup artist, and has done a lot of work on contemporary henna art. She has attended many workshops in UK, USA including Ash Kumar’s Henna Training Academy—UK.

“In recent years, henna art has been getting popular with the Aussies. It’s a fun alternative to tattoos. People who are interested in getting a tattoo done come to me and try henna first to see if they like the pattern/design or just having body art done,” says Nilima. She adds that several girls in Australia want to apply henna designs on their back, on under the neck or just above the hips or on their bellies. “The designs are not permanent, so they can experiment a lot,” she adds.

The business, she says, used to work like a cottage industry—“small designs, small payments”. “Now the business is flourishing on a large scale. Henna designs are now done at professional levels, at some of the biggest salons as well. The demand is increasing day by day. Henna now comes in various colours, the more popular one being white henna, which western brides match with their white gowns,” says Nilima.

“Henna is a signature, a style and a code for fashion. But it is crucial to make sure that the paste is of good quality and is natural. If you use an old product or let it sit out, you will not get a good stain. It only takes 15-20 minutes to dry, but in order to get a good stain, you have to leave it on for four to six hours. And it’s a good idea to avoid water for 24 hours,” she says.

If you want to learn more about henna art, Nilima conducts henna workshops for beginners to expert levels at O’Some Brows: Glen Waverley, Doncaster and now in Point Cook. You can contact her at: 0406 973 644; 0406 472 882


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