The intricacies of Henna


The henna plant is native to northern Africa, western and southern Asia, and northern Australasia. As a result, the henna dye is also used in many areas around the world and with today’s modern technology henna has expanded its availability from India, Africa, and the Middle East to Europe, Canada and the United States.

The origins of henna itself is not altogether clear given that the word exists in many ancient languages and has been found recorded in different civilizations for different uses. One common use for henna is the use of henna as body art to adorn women during wedding celebrations (known as “Night of the Henna”). In some cultures it is common to adorn both bride and groom with elaborate henna designs as a “Barakah” or blessing. The henna is applied to wish the happy couple luck, joy, and beauty; it is believed that the more complex and intricate the design, the greater joy and luck the newlyweds would have. Some bridal designs can take up to five days to complete! Henna is also used in other celebrations, births, birthdays, circumcisions, and pregnancy (during pregnancy it is used as an amulet to protect mother and child through the birthing process).

Today, the availability and artistic potential of henna continues to grow, largely as a result of the high cultivation and new methods of grinding, sifting, and packaging; these have allowed for more elaborate ceremonial art and innovations such as glitter, gliding, and fine-lining work.

The widespread nature of henna and its various uses–as blessing, protector, dye, among others—has allowed for the creation of many different styles of mehndi art. Some of the more common styles include:

  • Arabic, which contains bold lines, leaves, and floral patterns.

  • Indian Intricate, which is composed of repetitive lines and patterns without break.

  • Indo-Arabic, which is an artful combination of the both Arabic and Indian characterized by bold lines, leaves, flowers, and intricate designs.

  • Moroccan, which is similar to the style of other Northern African countries is recognized by the straight, draped lines, geometric figures and intricate patterns.

  • Pakistani, similar to the Arabic style it contains bold lines, leaves, and floral patterns. However more recently, this style has begun to integrate beads and glitter into its designs.

  • Khaleeji (Khaliji), also known as “Gulf” or “Persian Gulf” is a characterized by free-flowing and spontaneous designs, uncommon layouts, floral and abstract ideas, often including negative space.