KezdőlapAll AfricaThe Numerous Uses of Henna

Forrás: All Africa. Szerző: Katy Winter.

It is no news that women have an ardent love for beautifying their bodies and as such they indulge in body decorations for various reasons; while some go for it to enhance their beauty, others do it for social or religious rites.

Henna art is a beautiful, natural, temporary stain or drawing of designs on the body. According to reports it has been practiced in India, Africa, and the Middle East for centuries, where the henna plant is believed to bring love and good fortune, and also to protect against evil.

The botanical name of the plant is Lawsonia inermis, and is a member of the Loosestrife family and can be found in the northern states of the country.

Lalle or kunshi as it is popularly called in northern Nigeria is traditionally practiced for Sallah celebrations, wedding ceremonies, during important rites of passage, and in times of joyous celebration. A paste made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant is applied to the skin, and when removed several hours later, leaves beautiful markings of orange, red or black dye on the body decorating places like the legs, palms and finger nails, that fade naturally over one to three weeks.

Nowadays henna is mixed and sold ready-made in factory fitted containers making it easy for the artists to begin work on the clients unlike in the past where the designs were made by cutting black cello tapes or masking tapes in various shapes and placed on both feet, hands and palms before applying the poultice made with henna leaves, and if it’s the black design that is preferable, ashes mixed in a paste is applied to the red design..

Although widely recognized for its aesthetic use, traditional henna uses and application processes have gone contemporary as the plant isn’t only used for decorating the body but also as a hair dye. Henna is highly recommended for both males and females to dye their hair as it is a natural product and has less or no carcinogenic effect compared to other dying agents.

It is also used for medicinal purposes as it is believed in India that henna mixed with vinegar and applied to the head is remedy for headaches. It is also used as a coagulant for open wounds; and a poultice made with henna leaves works to soothe burns and certain types of eczema.

Its inherent soothing qualities are also part of the reason why it is traditionally applied on the palms of the hands. Since the palm contains numerous nerve endings, and when applied to the area, it helps to relax the system.

For weddings in the northern part of Nigeria, its use is an established practice celebrated as part of the marriage rites. This tradition is widely accepted among Muslim brides for their Nikkah, as it is seen more as tradition and Islamically it is sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.

‘Ranar Kunshi’ known as ‘Henna Day’ is usually set aside as part of the wedding ceremonies where the bride and her friends are adorned with the designs.

Some traditions also tend to believe it is a sign of fertility and love between the couple, the bride adorns herself with the design before coming to the husband’s house as it brings good luck to the home.

Maman Zainab, a henna artist who resides in Gwagwalada told Home Font that the significance of henna plant is numerous and explains that before a bride’s wedding night, henna is mixed with traditional remedies like honey, humrah(perfume), eucalyptus oil and other items. This I known as dilke which is used to bathe and scrub her body, the effect of which turns the bride’s skin soft and smooth feeling like cotton, making her attractive to the groom.

She adds that there are many ways of preparing a proper dilke mixture. Every designer has her own unique recipe; they do not always like to share.

She adds that she has made designs for brides on numerous occasions during their weddings and has seen how it adds colour and beauty to the event.

The artist, who says she makes a fortune from designing brides during weddings, adds that the job is a very lucrative one as she always has clients waiting for her to sell or make designs for them.

“Nowadays people do not wait for weddings or ceremonies for the designs. If I am not at a wedding, I go to the University (University of Abuja) where both students and women from outside the university come and patronize me,” she said.

Hadiza Muhammad, a student of University of Abuja said when she got married, she had the henna bathe and design which her husband admired and since then, she has been designing her hands and legs with henna. She adds that when the one she has on wears off, she comes back to apply fresh one to beautify herself.

Zinat Salahudeen, a History student of the same university says she loves seeing brides in their wedding outfits with beautiful henna designs on their hands and legs stating that, “It makes them look royal and beautiful.”

The young undergraduate who loves to make kunshi on both hands and legs says even though she is from the southern part of the country and it is not a tradition there, she will make sure she does the henna design when her wedding comes up.

Rabi Yakubu, housewife says most men love to see their wives with the designs on them because it makes their skin softer and more beautiful. She concludes by stating that her husband gives her money every two weeks to renew her designs.


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