Fertilizer Fridays are interviews with artist friends. Honest, casual conversations that share ideas and bust myths about being an artist/making art.
It was Election Day. 5 May 2013. I had just voted and was hanging out at Merdekarya‘s post-voting event, where I met Anna at her magical henna booth. She drew leaves snaking up from my indelible inked finger across my hand. Art has a way of making things bearable – like waiting, and later when the result came out, depression. Check out what she has to say about henna, body image and finding the thing you love.
Just like everyone else, artists have good days and bad days. Could you describe what your working day is like, a good one and a bad one?
A good day would be when the sun is shining on all the creative people gathered in a musical environment!
Bad henna cone days. This happens when the henna paste is not ground finely enough. It will clog the henna cone making it useless. This will stop the flow of the design, and it can get messy and really annoying!
What’s in your henna kit?
For events or private sessions, I always bring extra henna cones. There are also other items I carry in my kit: I must have rubber bands, scissors, paper and marker pens.
I love that all you need to do art fits in a box that you can take wherever you go. Can you tell us about some places where you’ve set up and henna-ed?
After doing a lot of private henna sessions, I finally got the big break when Anna Henna was invited for a musical event called SuaraKami in 2011. We were given a big booth and I did henna for almost 10 hours. It was amazing!
Are you a feminist?
Alot of women (and probably more men than we care to admit) have body issues. Do you find people feel differently about their bodies after being covered in a henna design? What are your thoughts about the relationship between how we look on the outside and how we feel on the inside?
Body image and self image are very much related. What you see in the mirror is what you think and perceive about yourself. Inner dialogue is the catalyst that affects how we feel inside. As a henna artist, I found that my customers enjoy body art for many reasons: to express, rejoice, accessorize or conceal. Whatever their reason, the purpose is to have positive inner dialogue. Personally, I feel ‘naked’ without any henna on my skin!
You did an amazing project, ‘Ofelia’, where you covered someone in a full bodysuit of intricate henna. Please tell us more about it!
Project Ofelia was a journey. I have always dreamt of doing henna on a full nude model. While volunteering for an event in the Kemensah Jungle, my dreams came true when I met Jules. Jules is one big hearted, unique and significant person I have had the opportunity to work with. After sharing my ideas about designing a full nude body with henna, she didn’t hesitate and told me she wanted to be on board!
It took us 5 days (12 hours per day) to complete Project Ofelia. We were fortunate to have photographer friends capture Ofelia in front of the lens for the whole world to see. Having Jules carry the role of Ofelia was spot on, and it was surreal to see Ofelia brought to life!
What exactly is henna? Can you give us a crash course in its origins, preparation and cultural meanings? Could it really have been a viable alternative to indelible ink that was used during GE13?
Henna would be an awesome substitute to indelible ink. It may take 15 minutes to dry, but it is organic and will definitely last more than 2 weeks!
Basically the leaves from the henna tree are picked, ground and made into a paste. There are many secret methods and ingredients to add to the henna paste. The ideal colour is rich and should last up to 2 weeks. I use tea instead of plain water to make my henna paste. Turmeric and lime are good to get a long lasting henna stain. As for my black henna, I mix in another plant called Wasma. Wasma is very similar to the henna plant but it extracts darker shades of colour.
Henna can last longer depending on the area of skin where the design is. Areas that are not prone to sweat or water contact are likely to have a longer lasting henna stain. Henna can also be applied on hair, finger nails and cloth as a dye. In many regions of the world, henna is affiliated with weddings. Bridal henna night is still a widely practiced custom today.
Alot of people are searching for the thing they love to do, that fulfills them and makes them happy. But getting there is not as easy as it seems. With your experience of finding and doing what you love, what would you say to someone who is still on that search?
I started doing henna since I was very young. My parents were my canvases. My passion for this body art made me practice hard and improve. To those wandering souls, I would say, always work on what you like and grow at it. Skills and passion go hand in hand and do not half-ass anything! Train your mind to be wild and free and create with your heart.
What’s next for you?
Right now things are pretty hectic for me. I am a student counsellor during the day and a henna artist by night. Haha! The future seems very hopeful. In a few more months, I intend to travel with my henna kit. I’m very much looking forward to that adventure.
Fine Print: Images are Copyright Anna Maria and Anna Henna. All Rights Reserved. Wouldn’t hurt to ask before using. But if you’re taking them anyway, credit correctly!