Musings on race, informed consent and the nature of henna

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Posted by Kenzi on May 29, 2002 at 15:04:27:

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

From reading your post it sounds like you are saying that people
with darker shades of skin should not be told the truth about
henna and that anyone who does tell them is being racist.

I want all my clients, of all colors, to have a wonderful henna
experience. I want them to understand the nature of henna
which is dependent on so many factors. I want them to be able
to make an informed decision about what to have hennaed and
where on the body. My principles guide me to tell people the
truth about how henna takes on different areas of the body and
what to expect. I feel that it is misleading, even deceptive, to tell
them that they will get the same color no matter where they get
the henna. My clients are told that the color will come out darker
on hands and feet and not as dark on other parts; they are also
informed that if they do want it on other parts of the body there
are things they can do to ensure that they get the darkest color
possible. The choice is up to the client and I go along with what
they want; I never refuse to henna anyone based on where they
want the henna (within reason!) or their skin color.

I would say that about 60-70% of the people who get this
information change their minds and go with having their hands
or feet hennaed, or at least wrists or ankles. And most of these
are delighted with how beautiful it looks on those body parts. I
believe that this is that important shift from thinking of henna as
a temporary tattoo to thinking of henna as its own art form.
People who see it as a temporary tattoo want their henna in
places where tattoos are normally found (backs, bellies, arms,
legs etc.). Those who see henna as a separate art may also
want henna on these other body parts, but are aware of the
traditions of henna being used on hands and feet and
appreciate the beauty of that.

I think pulling the race card in all of this is to put up a roadblock
in this discussion. The real issue is imparting information to our
clients so they can make an informed decision which is true to
henna but also true to what they want from henna.


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