Henna is a South Sudanese custom adopted from Arab and Middle Eastern cultures. It refers to the application of henna dye in intricate beautiful designs on the hands and feet of ladies. It is applied in preparation for an occasion, particularly weddings. It is customary for brides to have this applied in elaborate designs to her hands up to her forearms, and feet extending to the legs. The bridal party including the mother of the bride, her sisters, aunties and mother-in-law would invite a henna tattoo artist to the bride's home a few days before the wedding to have this beauty treatment. Henna application to the feet is reserved for married women, and brides. I recently had the pleasure of attending a wedding in South Sudan and having henna design.
Modern day henna is a mix of natural henna dye and hair dye, to expedite the dye uptake. It takes 2 hours for this mix to set, compared to 6-8 hours for natural henna dye to set into the skin. The henna will last for 2 weeks, before fading away. The most amazing thing was the talent of the henna artist. The craft is passed down generations in the family of henna artists. Our henna artist created different designs on every lady present, without any stencil or drawings, free hand. Everyone was surprised at how unique and beautiful her design turned out.