With a historical past spanning millennia throughout the Center East, North Africa, and South Asia, henna is steeped in custom and cultural rituals. The pure dye is often used to create short-term, intricate physique artwork for non secular festivals and celebrations, akin to weddings.
Now, Dubai-based designer Azra Khamissa is on a mission to provide the traditional apply a contemporary makeover.
Her purpose is to create henna designs that align with trend developments, together with henna merchandise that may be bought by way of main cosmetics retailers. Khamissa wish to see henna worn on a regular basis — not simply on particular events.
Khamissa’s minimalist designs embrace line drawings of faces, flowers and landscapes. Credit score: Abdulla El Maz
An historical artwork
Henna is constructed from plant leaves. Its origins as a beauty product are unknown, however it has “been used for 1000’s of years for beauty functions” together with coloring hair and nails, and adorning fingers and ft, says Ade Solihat, a lecturer and researcher of Arab Research at Universitas Indonesia.
Throughout Khamissa’s childhood, henna was typically used for household celebrations like Eid, she says. However as she bought older and developed her sense of fashion, she would “dread” events the place she needed to adorn herself with flowery designs.
Khamissa’s perspective to henna began to vary at a buddy’s marriage ceremony in 2017. Getting ready for the ceremony, she experimented by adorning the middle of her palm with a disc (a design known as rubeya, in Arabic) and coloring her fingertips (rawayeb, in Arabic). Often “solely grandmothers” would put on this design, says Khamissa, however its easy, daring minimalism appealed to her.
Per week later, Khamissa attended a photoshoot for her eponymous purse model, the place the photographer captured her henna-covered fingers. When Khamissa noticed the pictures, she started to see henna in “a special mild.” Subseqently, she launched her profession as a henna artist.
Dubai-based Azra Khamissa desires to make henna a component of on a regular basis trend. Credit score: Aqib Anwar
“I simply stored exploring completely different conventional designs, after which began including my very own contact to them,” she says.
Khamissa assessments new designs on her personal fingers first. When she runs out of area, her sister and grandmother volunteer their fingers. Her grandmother is not all the time a fan of her trendy interpretations — however when she responds positively, Khamissa is aware of she’s onto a winner: “No matter she likes, I do know is a superb success, as a result of that is the actual conventional eye assembly up with one thing new and completely different.”
Minimalist and trendy
In her work, Khamissa reinterprets conventional ornate floral patterns as pared-back line drawings of single flowers, and replaces complicated mandalas with easy geometric shapes. Some designs pay homage to conventional North African and Arabic motifs, whereas others — topographical outlines, summary desert landscapes, and politically impressed flags and phrases — are her personal distinctive creations.
Khamissa says the short-term nature of henna — which lasts round two weeks — permits for extra “loopy” and experimental patterns, like all-over leopard print. For many who do not wish to ink themselves completely, henna provides extra flexibility and “makes tattoo tradition a bit extra inclusive,” Khamissa says.
A few of Khamissa’s designs are impressed by nature, together with Dubai’s desert landscapes. Credit score: Azra Khamissa
Solihat, the Arab Research specialist, says henna is now not tied to “symbolic and sacred meanings.” Trendy approaches assist it to “cross borders, ethnicities, and identities,” she says, including that it’s now standard amongst demographics and not using a henna heritage, “particularly among the many city younger technology.”
Magnificence retailer henna
It isn’t simply Khamissa’s designs which might be trendy — she desires to replace the best way henna is bought, too.
Usually, recent henna paste, or the uncooked elements to make it, can be found solely at specialist shops.
“There’s an enormous hole out there,” says Khamissa. “You possibly can’t discover henna in a Sephora or Boots, main pharmacies or magnificence shops. I wish to make it extra accessible.”
Khamissa hopes her designs will encourage individuals to embrace henna and put on it in a extra informal, up to date means. Credit score: Azra Khamissa
An answer to the shelf-life drawback could be mini-freezers, which might hold henna paste recent for as much as six months, says Khamissa. She is contemplating designing her personal freezers to permit her to scale up and promote henna in cosmetics shops.
Khamissa hopes that by making high-quality henna extra accessible, extra girls will likely be impressed to get inventive with physique artwork of their on a regular basis styling. “Henna ought to be like getting your nails achieved, your hair achieved, your make-up achieved for a glance. Including henna simply tops it off superbly.”