Program introduces Garden Terrace residents to henna tattoos

Residents got their own henna designs and learned about the history of this traditional body art

Garden Terrace residents recently spent an afternoon getting henna tattoos and learning about the history of this traditional body art.

Henna tattoos are a traditional South Asian body art created by decorating skin with a dye derived from a paste made from the powdered leaves of the henna plant.

Unlike regular tattoos, henna tattoos are created by making prints on the top layer of skin. The designs fade away after about two weeks.

About 12 residents participated in the program, which was run by the life enrichment department at the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home.

Because some people have a reaction to henna ink, life enrichment aide Neelam Luthara made a different version that everyone could use, explains life enrichment co-ordinator Rachael King.

There were small stencils with designs that team members used to create henna tattoos on participating residents.

Residents also learned about the significance of henna tattoos. Neelam, who is from a South Asian background, shared the history of henna tattoos as well as interesting facts about the designs.

“For example, she explained how when you are married your husband has to find your name in the henna, and if not, he has to give you a gift,” Rachael explains.

According to St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., henna body art has been practised in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa for more than 5,000 years. Because henna ink has cooling properties, it is believed to have been originally used to defend skin from the heat in warmer parts of the world.

“Today, Henna is mainly used in celebration of special occasions such as weddings and birthdays in the joyous gathering of people,” the university says on its website.

“The Henna paste symbolizes good health and prosperity in marriage, and in some cultures, the darker the henna stain, the deeper the love between two individuals.”

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PHOTO CAPTION: Garden Terrace resident Sophia Tieu shows her new henna tattoo during a recent program.