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21 Apr

The brand new generation of artists giving henna a

Young henna artists are moving away from traditional floral designs, creating art that’s more relevant for day-to-day life

It’s the day before Eid, and a small makeshift henna parlour is taking form within the dining room. The family henna artist, my sister, is in the midst of a circle of stretched arms. Fingers wiggling, arms flapping, it’s chaotic to the unfamiliar eye. But to us, it’s nothing out of the atypical, a seasoned ritual to bring to start with of a celebration, steeped in intricate tales of belonging. 

While a typical consensus on its origins is yet to be agreed on, some historians report the earliest use of henna as a component of the mummification ritual among the many Ancient Egyptians, and by Cleopatra herself to adorn her body. Today, the art form is practised across the globe, from Sudan to India. In its functionality, henna is easy: it’s an act of expression and celebration, done for events like weddings and spiritual festivities. 

There are a number of hard and fast rules of henna practice, but for probably the most part, it’s free-flowing and follows the artistic genius of generations before. The fluidity of henna brings about various design styles: the henna sort of Dubai could be different to that of Pakistan, for instance. Each design is a selected exploration of identity and delicate embrace of community, of tales from long before. 

Today, the subsequent generation of henna artists are imagining a recent world of henna and embracing modern ways of being beyond – but not faraway from – its traditional practice. Chiropractor-turned-designer and artist Azra Khamissa is an element of this wave. For Khamissa, the premise of henna stays the identical, it’s a practice to attach individuals, and it’s within the style where she has been inspired by change. Her daring creations are removed from the floral grandeur designs traditionally related to henna.

It began with a friend’s henna party where Khamissa looked for a design to suit her aesthetic, but couldn’t find anything that felt right. As an alternative, she ended up drawing inspiration from stripped-back tribal designs, “a standard circle within the centre and my fingertips,” she says. Since then, her fresh, minimal and deliberate tackle henna has began a mini-revolution amongst henna wearers, and she or he now has over 160,000 followers on Instagram. Individuals who weren’t fans of the customary feminine floral designs now have a approach to reconnect with a component of their identity through traditional practice. “The stripped-back nature of her designs meant I too was capable of take part the celebration and feel a part of my very own community, it suited my style so way more,” Sabira Akhtar tells Dazed. 

While these dreamy and contemporary designs offer something recent, they don’t take away from what got here before. For Khamissa, using henna is an element of something greater, it’s a approach to highlight, appreciate, respect and revive her culture and traditions. “A few of them are so beautiful but we just need them to be a little bit more relevant to our day-to-day life. That was it for me with henna,” Khamissa says. That is one among the ways the younger generation of henna artists is putting their modern tackle the tradition – henna isn’t any longer only for special occasions.

“I don’t wear henna for less than celebratory moments, I wear henna every couple of months. And that’s what I’m hoping to influence individuals with, henna just isn’t only for Eid or your cousin’s wedding,” Khamissa explains. For years henna was only reserved for large occasions and the loaded, intricate floral patterns, while extremely beautiful, often felt too extravagant for on a regular basis wear. Khamissa’s designs have helped make it more accessible, and relevant, to a recent generation of henna wearers.

London-based henna artist Medina Trevathan cites her grandmother, Sarkina, as a key memory reference for her journey with henna. But while her inspiration may come from the past, her designs are reflective of a change in henna, which we see in her use of non secular and nature-influenced symbolism. “Henna has led me down a bizarre journey, I believe it has gone barely beyond the henna itself, and more what it represents symbolically which I feel in essence is joy,” she says. For Trevathan, henna has been a path of discovery, exploring her connection to her spirituality and faith. “Maintaining our henna tradition is usually a deeply grounding force against the waves of this sea and might link us back through advantageous spider-like threads to some sense of stillness and slowness.”

Trevathan began by collecting old henna patterns from the work of Indian academic Jogendra Saksena. “I did this within the spirit of honouring women who had previously worn these patterns. It soon led to a full-on obsession with finding old henna designs, and creating an archive for others to access,” she adds. Her designs include an intricate fusion of mystic symbolism and depictions of nature to specific to the world her Islamic identity. Her style embodies a liberation of spirituality and closeness to the next power. “I could dedicate a lifetime, and perhaps I’ll, to why humans decorate, why and the way they create, but I actually imagine it’s our primordial nature to want to achieve closer to the Divine through creative expression.”

Of the various ways to adorn and mark yourself, henna has remained steadfast for over 9,000 years, and still today it holds the facility to specific and reveal inner layers of the being. Greater than just pretty flowers and delicate curl patterns, henna is utilized by billions to exhibit who they’re. “Henna could be seen as a shared experience that builds connection and strengthens relationships. The meaning of henna goes beyond its aesthetic appeal. For many individuals, henna is a approach to connect with their culture, tradition, and community,” explains London-based henna artist Samah Amjid.

Amjid believes social media has been significant within the revival of henna, it’s given approach to recent artists, opened dialogue around its use within the on a regular basis, and awareness of henna amongst a recent generation. While on the surface, henna could seem frivolous and an act of just adornment, it’s a strong marker of identity. For many individuals, henna is having a second coming, and that’s right down to a recent generation of henna artists which might be taking the normal henna designs and giving them a recent lease of life. Making a fresh approach to don the badge of honour, that each celebrates and goes beyond what got here before.

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