The use of Henna for body art is several centuries old at least. The people of ancient Egypt and India used this form of temporary tattoo for religious ceremonies, wedding festivals, and for simple body adornment.
Henna is a plant which grows in the tropical climates of Africa, northern Australia, and southern Asia. It’s leaves contain a pigment called lawsone which combines with proteins to cause staining. Because of this staining quality, Henna has been used throughout the ages to dye hair and create body art designs.
In Dominica there are few people skilled in the art of henna design. I had the luck of interviewing Alyssa Brumant who is a local henna artist.
The first question on the agenda of course was how she got involved in tattooing in the first place.
“ I started doing henna as a minor hobby last year, I’ve always had an artistic hand so it was not something to difficult or foreign for me to pick up. Late last year I fell ill and it affected my work as a massage therapist and needed something to lift my spirits as I fell into a depressive state. As a therapist I work with a lot of essential oils which are main ingredients in henna and I figured it would be therapeutic for me to mix my own paste and work with it. As time went by I came to love the art and people encouraged me to get a henna business going.”
Using henna for body art has been practiced for over 5000 years. It is a time-honored tradition among various cultures of the world. The intricate designs can symbolize passages of life and are also be applied simply for their beauty. Although relatively new to Dominica, Alyssa disclosed that it is becoming more and more popular.
“So far henna tattooing in Dominica is going well…a lot of people know more about it. Anytime anyone sees a stain they ask me “What is that” and I give them the history behind it. I’m just trying to perfect my craft so people appreciate it so much more”
Of course I inquired about the trending status of henna tattooing in Dominica due to its uniqueness to which she responded, “It should be trending… what makes henna unique Is the feel of it, the smell of it and the completed product. It is a journey as you need to take care of it in order to get a beautiful stain. No henna design is the same. Each design has a different pattern, flow and a different energy. To me it is not just a tattoo…henna is infused with healing properties and if one allows themselves to connect with those energies you will feel a distinct uplift in your mood. Its thought to be a blessing and brings healing properties and good energy to the wearer, it is also an anti fungal and antiseptic and its cooling to the skin. It’s both complicated and very simple.”
Getting a henna tattoo is preferred by many people over a traditional tattoo because it is not painful, there is less chance of adverse reactions, and it is not permanent. Alyssa revealed that she is inspired mainly by nature.
“My inspiration comes from me, I am always surrounded by nature, the river, trees and wind…that always grounds me and allows me to freely design. I’m always doodling and searching for new styles to keep my mind fresh.”
Tattooing women’s hands at weddings and childbirth allowed them a few weeks where they could bond with the new husband or new baby and not be bothered with daily household chores. The tattoos were also thought to bestow blessings and good luck. The henna artist divulged that her most memorable tattoo was her first maternity tattoo.
“ I have to say my most unique tattooing experience was my first maternity tattooing photo soot. I was so excited and it was very special due to the client suffering from PTOS and never believed that she would get pregnant. It was a miracle baby and it was so precious as the entire time I was tattooing the baby was moving so much. It was truly a magical experience”
Just because a henna tattoo is temporary does not mean that it is quick and easy to apply. It takes just as long as a regular tattoo especially if the design is drawn freestyle by the artist.