ORLANDO – It dates back 6,000 to 7,000 years … and it’s popularity is growing today, particularly during wedding ceremonies.
“It goes back to ancient Egypt,” said Ron Jaffe. “It was an art used at ceremonies.”
And it was a tradition that slowly found its way to the United States, and has become increasingly popular in recent years.
“Indian women in particular brought the tradition and culture over here during ceremonies like the ones they did back home,” Jaffe said. “In the 1980s and 1990s, the cultures started intermixing.”
Henna is an art form that Jaffe himself discovered, which is why he now has a studio – Red Moon Henna and Body Art, at 812 E. Anderson St. – where he does it.
“My particular take on Henna – and I’ve been doing it for about 12 years – is to do both contemporary and traditional art,” he said. “There will be a mixture of different motifs and different things I try.”
Henna – also known as Lawsonia inermis – is a flowering plant used to dye skin, hair, fingernails and sometimes clothing. It also applies to dye preparations that come from this plant and can be used for the art of tattooing.
“I was on a trip to Morocco in the 1980s, when my wife and I saw a bridal Henna (art) on a woman there, and I thought it was interesting,” Jaffe recalled.
When he got back to the U.S., he decided to visit an Indian shop, and convinced the owner to show him how to make the paste used for the dye. That turned out to be a turning point for Jaffe, the start of a strong appreciation for this unique form of tattooing art.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s a very interesting art base.”
For one thing, developing skills at Henna enabled Jaffe to begin learning more about different social cultures, including Indian culture.
“Henna is used like a tattoo,” Jaffe said. “A lot of people use it at weddings. It’s used to decorate woman – and men, sometimes. Most people know about Henna from weddings, in fact.”
In that sense, he said, it may be one of the most romantic tattooing art forms – a symbol of a woman’s love for the man she plans to marry.
“For the most part, it’s going to be teen to adult females,” Jaffe said of his current customer base. “Eighty percent of them will be teen to adult females.”
Until recently, Henna was more likely to be used by people with links to Eastern culture – although the popularity of Henna is making it more universal today, he added, regardless of the customer’s heritage or ethnic background.
“For people that are doing traditional eastern weddings, it’s a normal thing, like having a wedding cake,” he said. “It can be a whole big, elaborate thing. Couples can do it together, and it can be very personal for them.”
Henna comes from a bush that grows in the desert, and when the ground powder is mixed together into a paste, it gets applied to the skin and turns it red. Henna stains can last a few days to a month.
“Slowly it fades away,” Jaffe said. But before then, what goes onto the bride’s skin depends entirely on the bride’s imagination and the talents of the Henna artist.
“The patterns are really elaborate,” Jaffe said. “There are a lot of artists around who create pattern books for Henna artists. It takes time, once you do shows, to decide what people want, and what to show.”
It’s also a great way to meet interesting people, he added, including those caught up in the joy of a wedding ceremony and the future they’re looking forward to with a chosen mate.
“Henna, because of the intimate nature of it, you’re constantly interacting with people,” he said. “You’re in a fairly intimate environment. I enjoy the experience of being able to interact with other people. It’s just really inspiring to be able to interact with people.”
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