Henna is to Arewa women what hair is to black women!!!!!
Henna is used to beautify Arewa women especially during ceremonies . These intricate designs are carefully drawn on hands and feet, Some designs come in geometric shapes with abstract symbols; others come in floral designs, lines and dots.
Henna or Lalle in Hausa is a reddish or blackish dye obtained from powdered henna leaves. The paste was used in ancient times as a cooling agent for the people of Northern Africa, Asia and the Middle east.
Tracing the origin
It’s origin in Nigeria can not be traced very easily. In the early 20th century, the British historian Sidney John Hogben recorded an amusing folktale about the origins of henna in Nigeria, which connected the introduction of henna to the conquest of Nigeria by North African Tuareg nomads: claiming to use leather straps to create reverse patterns, the Tuareg tied up the locals and gained control! As Hogben writes:
“There is a story that has come down from the past and is still told in several parts of the country which illustrates how the nomad immigrants cunningly gained domination over the local Sudanese people. First they got permission from the chief to live peacefully alongside them. Then after years of increasing familiarity with the newcomers the local inhabitants began to admire the way in which the foreigners painted their nails with henna, and they asked to be shown how it was done. The process was duly explained by which the hands were stained with henna and then wrapped in strips of leather. Allowing themselves in this way to become tightly bound, they fell easy victims to the treacherous Berber nomads, who then had no difficulty in establishing their rule.”
Another way Northern Nigerian women might have started using the natural dyes is through Religion, Scholars believe that Prophet Muhammad had commanded the females in his congregation to adorn their hands with henna as a means of distinguishing their hands from the hands of the males. Hence some believe the henna to have come with the Islamization of some Hausa lands . It was recorded that men dyed their beards and women explored hand and feet designs at weddings and Eid celebrations in the 19th Century especially in the Borno Empire and the Fulani Empire in Sokoto.
Henna houses can be found all over Northern Nigeria. It is not strange to find at least one or two in almost every neighbourhood. These days, Arewa women have taken to incorporating henna designs into services rendered by spas and salons. One of these women is Hadiza Ibrahim who runs Diza empire in Abuja.
She says she added henna to the beauty services she renders because Henna is an artistic design which complements and adds to women’s beauty.
“Doing henna makes me feel more like a woman, a woman who appreciates culture and art and Carrie’s it with pride” she says in praise of temporary tattoos
Henna houses are usually a haven of beauty and female companionship. Women talk about their lives and share experiences as the dark or red dye dries. It’s become so important in the lives of Arewa women that henna parties or Sa lalle – a ceremony where the bride and her friends get their henna done in preparation for the wedding – are a common part of traditional weddings.
“They usually feel relaxed and satisfied,as the procedure is like been pampered” Hadiza says
This culture of pampering and bonding with fellow women is an essential part of Arewa women’s lives.