Thursday, July 24, 2014


My current henna artwork. Mine for two weeks!
Something that's become a favorite tradition of mine in Singapore is "getting henna done." Henna is a plant-based dye that is used to draw intricate designs on skin. The dye actually permeates below the surface layer of the skin, so the design stays on your skin for nearly two weeks. (For reference, if you were to draw on your skin with a pen, the ink stain would sit on the top-most layer of your skin, so it would wear/wash off within about a day. A henna tattoo goes into a layer below that, and a needle-and-ink tattoo places ink into your skin yet another layer down, so that is what makes it more permanent, although even that form of skin tattooing still fades over time).

You can watch this video to see the quick, talented artist at work.

L to R: Me, Nesh, Meera, Janice, Vaynii
In any case, henna art is a way that women of any culture (but predominantly Muslim and Hindu cultures) celebrate holidays, weddings, birthdays and life in general. This is typically a tradition enjoyed by women together, and I feel lucky to have found a "henna buddy" here in Singapore, my past student Vaynii. About a year and a half ago, Vaynii invited me to her birthday party, where I had henna done for the first time (and also wore a traditional Punjabi suit, as the theme was "Bollywood" and I was encouraged to go shopping in Little India with another past student, Zena, to get myself something fun and new to wear!). I found the process of getting the henna painted on absolutely mesmerizing, and the process of letting it dry absolutely painstaking ("Is it dry yet? Can I wash it off and see the design?" "NO! LET IT DRY!").
Nesh admonishing me to LET IT DRY.

After the paste is COMPLETELY dry (it sets in about 10-20 minutes, and is dry to the point that it falls off within 2-3 hours), the design is light at first, and then darkens over the next 12 hours into a beautiful adornment.

Selamat Hari Raya!

Vaynii surprised me on Sunday with an invitation to a festival for the Muslim holiday Hari Raya. We went to a festival market where there were all manner of beautiful clothes, carpets, household decorations, shoes, jewelry, odd assortments of computer gadgets and more for sale in tents lining the streets. And interspersed among the sales tables were henna artists. I had this design painted on for $5. It is five dollars well spent for days of joy and a reminder to celebrate every minute of this wonderful life experience I've been blessed to have in Singapore!
"Henna buddies!"


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