Friday, February 4, 2011

The Art of Mehndi or Henna Tattoos

Mehndi  is the application of henna which is an all-natural,  reddish brown body stain that looks like a tattoo.

Paste is made from dried, ground leaves of the henna plant.  Some of the earliest records indicate Mehndi was used in Ancient Egypt to stain hands, feet, nails and colour hair.  Traces of henna have been found on the nails of mummified Pharaohs and in ancient times, Mehndi was used to symbolize a higher class of life and luxury.   Later in 900 to 1550 AD, Mehndi appeared in Persia and Turkey in miniatures and pottery pieces depicting elegantly patterned dark henna.  Then other cultures used henna for body adornment in places such as Arabia, Crete, Egypt, Algeria, Yemen, Cyprus, Morocco, Spain, Thailand and Sicily.  By 17th century, many women in India started to apply designs to their hands and feet at least twice a year regardless of social class or marital status. The most common association of henna tattooing is associated with ceremonial art for Indian weddings.  Modern henna tattooing has become a part of many cultures worldwide and henna tattoos have become a very popular way to express individuality without the permanence of a regular tattoo.

Traditionally, henna designs have fallen into four different designs:

Middle East -  Random floral patterns of delicate, flowery or fine lace designs

North Africa - Follows the shape of the hands and the feet using geometric floral patterns

India and Pakistan - Include larger areas to give the illusion of gloves and stockings.  Usually lines, paisleys and teardrop shapes

Indonesia and South Asia - Mix of Middle Eastern and Indian designs with blocks of colour on the very tips of toes and fingers

Art Lesson ideas for using Hands in Art. 

Further Activities:
Learn how to draw hands
The study of hands

Children's Activities:
Art Attack:  Painted Hands

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