I have long been enamored with Henna. Sometimes known among cultures as Mehndi, it is the art of applying a paste made from dried plants and essential oils in a design pattern, intended to stain the skin. In the Indian culture, a bride is hennaed on her hands a feet before her wedding. In Arabic cultures, the tradition is the same, but the designs are different. The application process is fascinating, and the results are startlingly beautiful.
My long-time search for a good henna artist (one from whom I might even learn) culminated in a small gathering at my house last night. Some long-time girlfriends, my kids and my mom…and Mount Kisco face painter/body artist/henna artist/teacher Margie Nugent. It was everything I ever dreamed and more.
I had been craving a henna tattoo for several years. I am a doodler, a sometimes-artist, and most of my creations are centered in henna art. I am drawn to the curves, and swirls – the leaves, the pods, the dots and lines that together comprise some of the most intricate designs imaginable. But there is more to Henna. It is a tradition carried on by centuries and centuries of women in different cultures that all came before me. It is a binding agent…to the past, present and future. It is a blessing shared between giver and receiver. It is natural, and it is art, worn for the world to see…but the meaning can be so intimately tied to the artist and the “canvas” person. It is relaxing and therapeutic. In Margie, I found someone who both understood all of this, and who was competent enough to actually do it! It was hog-(henna)-heaven for me.
We gathered around my kitchen table, children bouncing in and out, women who never met before finding connections from childhood, and sharing “war” stories. I found us to be a room of survivors…of all things. You name it, we embodied it. And Margie brought it all together. You see, Margie is a survivor herself. A single mother, a victim of domestic violence who turned her world upside down to raise her children in an arena of peace, rather than anger, hurt and rage. She would go on take her background and art, and use it to heal others who are suffering. She uses art as therapy, and shares her experiences with others to help them see the full potential of the human person. She has created a life for herself and her two boys by teaching in a private school, and by nurturing a side business that can sometimes be crazy. “Usually August is slow” she told me, “but I am booked solid”! I was thankful she could share a little of her time with my small group, and could fit us in between various other henna events, face-painting parties of all kinds, and photo-shoots and festivals.
As we all sat around, deciding on designs that were of personal meaning to each of us, I watched Margie in her “zone”. I took pictures of each design, and of her concentration and expertise. For a time, I was a student…learning the mystery of the process. I was engaged, and engulfed in the wonder of ancient tradition. Did women gather before me to share their stories? One thousand years ago, did they share their triumphs, and their tragedies? Most assuredly they did. While “things” have become more modernized, the human experiences of joy and sorry have not changed. Even my 6 year old son was a happy and willing participant, and shared in an artistic adventure that countless children had shared before.
And finally…it was my turn. Was it all I ever expected it would be? Well, I proudly sported my henna design on my palm at the office today. (Not only does the Henna stain the palm the darkest, but it might keep my hands away from the dishes for a week too! I am no dummy.)
If you are looking for an amazing experience, or entertainment for an event that is “out of the box”, you can find Margie here. I can guarantee you that you will not be disappointed in any way, and will most likely embrace the art of Mehndi as I have. And remember…its only temporary. So, if you are thinking about a tattoo, why not try Henna first?