Monday, September 12, 2016

Mehndi Hands: A cultural lesson

Teaching where I teach in Antioch Tennessee, it seems like an unusual spot for a diverse community yet we have three translators on staff and multiple languages spoken throughout our school. I love our crazy mix of cultures at our school and it often inspires me to teach lessons that feature some of the cultures that we have in my art lessons.

There have been several occasions when I've had young girls come in with Henna/ Mehndi paint on their hands. Woman in several middle eastern cultures use Mehndi in celebration in honor of wedding ceremonies.
Image result for mehndi
Last year I discovered this fabulous children's story book called Nadia's Hands. The story itself about the girls feelings of going to school after having the Mehndi on her hands made her very scared to have it done to her. In the end, she was proud of it, and who she was, a young girl from Pakistan.

I chose to do this with fourth grade, and tied it in with printmaking. The students learned about how different symbols used in the Henna paint represent different things. 
¢Flowers: Joy and Happiness

¢Sun, Moon and Stars: Deep and everlasting love

¢Water: Human emotion

¢Vines/Leaves: Devotion

¢Diamonds: Enlightenment

¢Square: Stability

The students first painted their background of their papers using soft watered down tempera cakes. Then they were each given a Styrofoam plate which they traced their hand onto. Once their hand was traced, they designed their Mehndi on the hand using inspiration from the above listed symbols, zentangles, and other images that were meaningful to them. I even had a male student who drew a pokeball in the middle of the palm of his hand- it made it more personal to him! Then we used brown ink, and printed the hand on one side of the paper, and hot glued the Styrofoam to the other side so that the hands appeared to be a matching/ symmetrical pair.

***If I were to do this again, which I loved the lesson, however the results could have been better! I would try again using an actual printing foam purchased from a supplier rather than the plates from the dollar tree. These plates are great for printing- however the ink did not stick to the foam itself once it dried. The ink flaked off leaving the foam hand portion looking bare. Some worked better than others, I'm not sure if I had a few different brands of foam plates. I would highly recommend testing your materials before using them.
 Here are a few of the good ones!

Here's a few where the ink didn't stay as well...