Women’s Studies Program hosts Henna workshop

By Linze Griebenow

Swarovski gems, micro-glitter and henna just made student body art a lot cooler.

Duriing a workshop Tuesday, students had the opportunity to get an educational and stylistic tutorial of the world of henna art.

The workshop, sponsored by the Women’s Studies Program and headed by Natalie Santiago, a graduate student in the Women’s Studies program, began as a form of art therapy for Santiago. After being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Santiago said she found henna to be a relaxing method of self-expression and taught her patience.

Growing out of her experience, Santiago said she wanted to share a traditional form of women’s art in a safe manner.

“I wanted to inform them and teach them safe practices: What henna is and isn’t safe to use, so that if they want to do it on their own, they know exactly what to go for,” Santiago said. “We really wanted to just to expand and give new perspectives of art and culture, especially women’s art in different cultures.”

Henna, an ancient form of cosmetic art, has traditionally been dominated by females, with the first depiction of male’s involvement appearing in a painting of the god Krishna around 600 C.E., Santiago said. However, she said, a surge in immigration during the 1980s brought henna back into the foreground of art and culture.

“It allows for self-expression and men have started getting into it,” Santiago said. “So it’s kind of redefining some gender boundaries.”

During the 1980s, Santiago said, Henna began as a trade in the U.S. In addition to the business opportunities henna opened for women, Santiago said community and creative self-expression are equally important components.

“A lot of it is just the idea of coming together in a female community and being able to express things to one another,” Santiago said. “The men in the community are equally as interested in getting together to talk and create and make designs.”

Katie Seelinger, senior women’s studies and biology double-major, said the idea of community was what initially drew her to the event.

“It’s hard to find local artists who do it, and I thought it was a nice fun break from all the academic stuff,” Seelinger said.

Seelinger, who works in a birthing community, said the practice would be a great addition to soothe her client’s anxieties.

Senior nursing student Alyssa Thompson said that although she makes an effort to attend as many women’s events as possible, this workshop had a unique attraction.

“It’s beautiful. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that all the time if they could?” Thompson said.

Santiago said her initial attraction to the art form is still intact.

“What drew me to it was the fact that it’s temporary and you can constantly change it, like with my identity I feel I’m always changing or want something different to whatever fits my personality that day,” Santiago said. “So I think the reason why it’s popular with women is because it allows for this diversity of expression.”