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Guest Post: Henna – La Chaine

Today’s guest post is from Kenzi at Moor Henna.   One of my most popular posts was one I shared about having henna done for my wedding in Morocco.  I adore henna and I think that the women who learn how to apply it are amazing artists.  It is much more than a series of lines, flowers and designs.  Most of the shapes have meanings and are connected.  I hope that you will enjoy her post and learn more about the art of henna!
 
For those of you have had the chance to pick up a copy of Moor, you know the importance we ascribe to this simple motif. Its name, in French, means “the chain.” The chaine is the most important linear element in Moroccan design, and is drawn in a few different ways, the most common being with a simple zigzag sandwiched between two sets of parallel lines. When the chaine is drawn by Moroccan naqashat, it has a distinctive messy look. This is important because as a motif, the chaine does two things- it creates a boundary, but also recedes into the visual background- it gives just enough interest to move the eye, but not enough to distract from the other, larger motifs or the design as a whole.
 
So, when creating chaine motifs in your own work, remember to leave it a little bit messy. When the triangles of the zigzag become too defined, it begins to creep up visually, and changes the effect of the design as a whole.  It helps to think of the chaine as three parts, in order: one set of parallel lines, one zigzag, and another set of parallel lines. Create the zigzag quickly, in one smooth motion, without pausing, and you should have the right effect.
 
Some chaine examples for you, from our work:
 

 

 

Kenzi also has a site here where she sells henna kits.  Some of the Berber translations of motifs include;

 

fish water, fertility, prosperity
bird messenger between heaven and earth, destiny
eagle power
lizard or salamander seekers of the sun, the human soul seeking the light
snake phallus, fertility, healing powers
turtle saints, protection against evil  eye
triangle, inverted triangle, diamond eye, protection against the evil eye
hand, number 5 (khamsa) protection against evil

 

Nose
(represents the crow’s beak which is worn strung around a child’s neck for protection)

Lion’s paw
(a symbol of strength;the claws are a symbol of protection)

Finger
(a protective symbol)

Barley
(fertility symbol)

Partridge eyes
(a symbol for beauty and women in general)

Chessboard
(associated with dizzy spells and celestial experiences, perhaps symbolic of religious trances)

 

I highly recommend her site for more on the history and application of henna (and more of the translation of images). You can also find Kenzi on Twitter @kenzihenna

Have you ever had henna done?  What is your favorite pattern or design? Have you experienced henna in another culture?

Comments

  1. Laura/TheSpicedLife says:

    I have issues with stuff on my skin, so I confess I’ve never had it done despite being in an Indian wedding (yes I was the kid who cried when my mom put light make up on me for dance recitals as a child). BUT my kids recently had it done at Epcot in “Morocco” and they loved it!

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  1. Amanda’s Golden *Surpise* Cupcakes says:

    [...] Rather do something relaxing for yourself instead of cooking?  Read about the magnificent art of Henna and what some of the symbols mean.  Like a busy kasbah, there is definitely something for everyone [...]

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