Henna in West Africa

In West Africa the designs are not drawn on the skin. Rather thin strips create a design where the henna will not stain. Then the henna is applied everywhere. Once it is washed off, the strips can be removed. So the west African designs tend to use straight lines. When our research team was in Mali we asked what the repeated triangles meant. The women creating designs said they were the scales of a fish. With good luck you will catch a bigger fish each time, so that is why the triangles increase in size. Henna is not only carrying ancient traditions, but new innovations as well. One new technique is to arrange straight lines along a curve, so that the patterns look like leaves or feathers, as shown in this baby naming ceremony in Bamako, Mali (Photo by Katie Orlinsky).