Thursday, March 27, 2008

Henna Hands

On the spice tour we were shown henna which is used to decorate skin or temporarily die hair. An even more temporary is the ‘lipstick fruit’. That is a lovely brilliant orange-red that can be smeared off almost as easily as it goes on.

As a tourist, I was looking for a nice henna décor job on my hands. What you see is what I got. (The earlier photo showed both hands.) It’s not actually henna. I learned on the tour that if it’s the black and not amber orange color it’s just an ink.

I know from living in East Africa before that it’s usually done for big celebrations. Like a bride will spend hours getting her hands and feet decorated, while her attending party will do some on their hands too, but not as elaborate. This is not traditional African culture. This is Middle Eastern and Indian so some of the Swahili (coastal mixed tribes) have adopted it. Both times on the ferry I saw mysterious black veiled women with exquisite painted hands.

I couldn’t help wondering later when I was hanging out with people my own age is I am too old for this kind of fun. Oh well, I was on vacation, and I didn’t have to be back at work afterwards. I would have loved to draw the designs on someone else. So I bought some henna. You mix the powder with water and lemon juice to help it stay on longer. I’m sure I can find more in Nairobi if I get hooked on doing it.

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