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Posted by Anne Beltestad on May 28, 2002 at 21:54:04:

In reply to: Re: Musings on Dance Africa, henna in NYC, and such posted by Maureen on May 28, 2002 at 18:00:46:


I wasn't saying I haven't hennaed "people of color" - in fact several
of my early guinea pigs in Seattle's bicycle messenger community were
considerably darker than me, of various ethnicities.
However, what I was trying to convey is that the majority of my
festival experience, which was in Seattle, Washington, a notoriously
"white" part of the country, was on people whose skin color did not
vary as much from mine; many Asians, Native Americans, Middle
Easterners who were yes, "darker" than me (as is my sister) if you
held us both against a white wall, but on whose skin henna will
contrast just as nicely as on mine - myself being my standard because
I have hennaed myself far, far more than anyone else.
Therefore, the revelation that this festival provided is that out of
maybe 150 people I hennaed, two were "white," many were
"light-skinned," most in-between, and a good number rather dark
As for "dissuading people of darker skin" from getting hennaed off the

Yes, henna stains best on hands and feet compared to
: other body parts. But, don't ever dissuade people of darker skin
: from having the experience of henna applied to other body parts
: because you think it may not show up well enough or have heard that
: it does not. The first is an opinion and the second appears to be
: a "truism" that is not true.

Actually, I dissuade EVERYONE from having henna higher than the knees
or elbows. this is based, again, on my own experience with my own
skin. The stain was wimpy if it came out at all. I seldom base
statements on what I have "heard" - as a graduate student, this is
very bad practice indeed.
I don't understand where you are coming from, only that electronic
communication is prone to serious misunderstandings. I was trying to
convey that the demographics of this particular festival helped me
prove my point that you shouldn't henna where henna doesn't take. It
is indeed my personal opinion that henna looks bad on the torso (and
again I am referring to my own torso) but it is a fact that my own
personal experience of it, coming from my own subjective point of
view, shows that it can stain very poorly or not even take on those
parts of the body to which it is not well suited.

: A friend of mine was very fond of saying, "No right
: to speak!" He rarely minced words.

Yes, but if we all only learned from firsthand experience we'd either
be doing nothing but trying to seek these experiences (to the
detriment of other aspects of our lives) or not learning anything (I
am reminded of my crazy alcoholic uncle who simply WON'T learn. Or
our current, ahem, President Bush the Lesser - this latter information
comes as the result of the firsthand knowledge of a friend of mine,
who worked with the man in Texas and was terrified by his
unwillingness to learn.) But I digress.

The way I would put it in this
: situation is that it might serve you very well in the future to gain
: some experience applying henna on various body parts of people of
: dark skin and to watch the stain develop over time. That way you
: will be able to speak first hand of how the stains develop. I think
: you may be quite surprised with the results.

What I was doing at this particular festival was just that. Every
time I henna I am learning. Every day for me, henna or more
generally, is a learning experience.
Again, what I was trying to convey in my post was that this festival
was educational and empowering. It wasn't as if whitey from the burbs
had her first time touching someone black, rather that I had an
opportunity to add to my knowledge about how henna stains on different
skins. The more people I henna (already in the tens of thousands I'm
sure) the more I learn. I'm sorry that you did not get this from my
posting. I think it would serve you well in the future to not jump to
conclusions about people you do not know, and to give others,
especially those you have never met, the benefit of the doubt.

If not surprised with
: the results, surprised perhaps that your expectation of how the stain
: should look against their skin and the customer's expectation of how
: the resulting stain will and should look upon their skin is quite
: different.

? ? ?
: If people of color keep hearing that from henna artist and truly
: believe that the only place they can get decent stains from natural
: henna is their hands and feet, if they want stains on other body
: parts, the statement appears to be saying that "black henna with PPD"
: is the only option.

This is a total misunderstanding of what I was trying to convey. I
ALWAYS tell people that henna doesn't stain well on the torso.
Actually, yesterday, this lost me a customer - incidentally she was
white", but she was also "trying out a tattoo idea" that was some sort
of vague stylized phoenix which she couldn't adequately describe.
Incidentally I am known for ranting against PPD at the drop of a hat.
However, people at Dance Africa were more well-informed than I am
used to, and I saved my ranting (and toned it down) for the actual PPD

Which is simply not so. If people of color are
: also told that "black henna with PPD" should not be an option because
: it is potentially unsafe and they therefore dont want the "black
: henna", they are left with no options except to get their hands and
: feet done. People of color have the same options as anyone else.
: And that, and nothing less, is the information that should be shared.

I wasn't basing my information on peoples' skin color. Again, I am
sorry that you read this into my posting. I was basing my information
on the fact that I personally do not like what henna does off the
hands and feet, and that I personally have experience with it not
staining well.
Your insistence that my educating people about what henna does and
doesn't do is either racist or encourages PPD use demonstrates a very
serious lack of communication here. Personally I think that thinking
of henna as a "temp tattoo," claiming that it comes in different
colors, etc., leads to PPD use, and the best way we can educate
Americans, whose only knowledge of body art has been tattooing, about
henna and what it can do, is to encourage them to go for the gold, to
get those traditional designs on the hands and feet: "no, I won't do
the Nike logo/skull/band logo-because-henna-doesn't-work-that-way"
Why not save your anger for those who market hair henna that "comes in
different colors" and is "100% Natural Organic?"

: It is wonderful to provide henna at an affair like Dance Africa. It
: would be more wonderful to provide the people attending with all
: possible options and results that can be obtained from pure natural
: henna. Stearing them to only have their hands and feet done does not
: do that when choices of places to be henna'd is connected to the hue
: of their skin.

Actually, no, it's not connected to the color of anyone's skin. At
this particular festival, people seemed to be quite informed about
henna and many wanted backs of hands and ankles. I did a few arms,
but no necks, chests, bellies, backs. I really don't like doing those
parts of the body. They don't stain well, they tend to smudge, and
overall are disappointing.
One final anecdote to share, to hopefully clear up the
misunderstanding you seem to have had, concerns the woman who was
sharing our booth on the first day. Amira is Egyptian, and was
selling clothing while her boyfriend drummed in front of the booth.
She asked me to henna her shoulder, and I gave her my usual
disclaimer. She wanted it, though, and I did a nice crescent moon
design (her choice) based on something from Catherine's book.
Yesterday she came by just as another woman we'd hennaed on Sunday was
showing Lisa her matching hands. The woman's hands had stained a
lovely deep red, sort of mahogany/cherry. Amira's shoulder was
barely visible. She was disappointed, and asked us "why"? We
reminded her that henna just doesn't work well on the back, chest,
neck, belly, or face, and that if she'd had it done on her hands (as I
suggested) she might have nice stains too. Luckily I'd done it for
free, hoping she'd help attract business.

: The opportunity to henna a group of people of African descent and
: provide information connecting henna to culture and tradition can
: indeed be a good thing. But only good when the information presented
: is accurate, correct and the result of that expedition my friend was
: so fond of talking about. Otherwise, it is just a hook.

I feel I have been on that expedition, am going on the expedition,
inasmuch as the rest of my life, the need for rest and downtime, will
allow. Your insistence that I am somehow not informed is deeply troubling.
I am not using a hook. Not informing people that henna won't stain
well off the hands and feet is more of a hook than potentially losing
their business by telling them the truth. Selling "colored henna" is
a hook. Calling henna "henna tattoos" is a hook. I don't do any of
these things, because I think they are misleading.
I speak from an informed perspective when I express my opinion, based
on experience, that henna simply does not work well on the rest of the
body as it does on the hands or feet, or even the wrists and ankles.
I don't change this information based on my audience. In fact, I give
the same rant to everyone; if you had read my post as thoroughly as
you seem to suggest you did, you might have gathered that I feel my
"henna rant" is drilled into me.
I hope that this clears up the misunderstanding you seem to have had.
I certainly do not communicate my best in an electronic format,
devoid of the nonverbal cues and "vibes" one gets from talking in
person, but I am saddened that you would think, as you seem to, that I
was somehow limiting peoples' henna experience based on their melanin
At the end of the day I consider myself nothing else if not highly
professional, and such limitation would run contrary to everything I
try to do as a henna artist and a human being.



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