Friday, September 8, 2017

From My Files 4: Four Centuries of Moroccan Jewish Henna

I just returned from a brief trip to Berkeley to celebrate the opening of a museum exhibition on Moroccan Jewish art that I helped research: The Invisible Museum: History and Memory of Morocco. It's open all this year until Jun 29, 2018, so if you're in the Bay Area I would highly recommend visiting it! Unfortunately there's no henna in the exhibit, but we do have some magnificent examples of the keswa el-kbira, the multilayered gold-and-velvet dress worn during the henna ceremony, which I've featured on this blog before

Moroccan henna dresses in the Magnes collection, on display in the exhibit.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

From My Files 3: The Oldest Record of Henna

From My Files, week 3! This week we're going back in time to find the earliest record of henna... Where and when did it begin — India? Africa? Babylonia? Google searches only reveal a black hole of contradictions and misinformation.

Where? Where???
There are few records of henna in the ancient world, and scholars face significant challenges, including the lack of archaeological evidence and confusion over what henna was called in different areas of the world, as well as having to face centuries of henna being overlooked by historians as insignificant or unworthy of serious study. We have only begun to piece together the scattered fragments of evidence for how henna was used in the ancient world... To learn more about henna in the Bible and the ancient Levant, in the Hellenistic world, and in ancient Egypt, see here.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

From My Files 2: Henna in the Museum

From My Files, week 2! Let's keep the momentum going.

Building off of last week's post, which featured a genipa fruit in a 17th century museum, this week I thought I would share some examples that I've come across of henna in museums around the world. Feel free to add in the comments: have you ever come across henna in a museum? As a student of Museum Studies, I've always been fascinated by combining two of my interests, and I would love to plan a museum exhibit on henna around the world... One day! What would you put in a museum exhibit on henna?

Of course, there are many examples of art depicting henna in museums around the world (for some examples previously examined in the blog, see herehere, and here), but we are not going to attempt to survey this in this brief post. Another category that we could put in our hypothetical henna exhibit are what might be termed henna paraphernalia, or objects related to henna or used during henna application. 

Henna gourd from West Africa, Smithsonian Museum of African Art
For example, in this post I have an example of a zunguru, or calabash gourd filled with henna paste, used in West Africa to cover the arms with henna; this post has an example of a sang-e ḥanā, "henna stone" or stool to rest one's feet on after they've been hennaed, which was common in Persia and the Ottoman Empire; and this post shows a Jewish henna cloth, known as pishandaz-e ḥana, from Afghanistan.