15 Nov

Meet the Artist Giving Henna a Contemporary Makeover

Azra Khamissa is breathing new life in to tradition

Written By Amina Kaabi

It’s no secret that henna has made a huge come back over recent months. What was once a tradition embraced mostly by our grandmothers (and occasionally by the rest of us at dreaded family holiday parties) has now hit the mainstream—but not without a millennial twist.

 

So long are the days where henna was reserved for special occasions. Women across the Middle East are sporting the natural dye on a day-to-day basis, and rather than opting for ancient designs, everyone seems to be reinterpreting henna to suit their own styles.

 

From intricate geometric shapes to minimal single-line designs, this generation is expanding its imagination and bringing new life to tradition. And as far as the henna scene in the UAE, Azra Khamissa is the driving force behind its comeback.

 

After  working as a chiropractor for a few years, the South-African/Canadian 29-year-old turned to fashion design, creating her eponymous leather handbag label in 2015.

 

And as of 2017, Khamissa has added yet another talent to her already-impressive skillset: henna design. “I had some time on my hands,” she says of her beginnings. “I started doing traditional Emirati designs, like the Rawayeb, which is just henna on the tips of fingers, and the Rubeya, which is just the circle on the palm.”

 

Afterwards, she began exploring Libyan and Tunisian designs, and soon after, she started experimenting with her own ideas. But as all great things commence in the internet age, it all took off after a post on Instagram.

 

“I was at an event in Alserkal for the launch of the Luna bag for my label, and at some point, I started drawing henna moons on everyone, and I posted a photo on Instagram and it got double the likes I usually get. I wasn’t expecting it. It kind of just happened. I think Instagram likes henna”.

 

 

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In celebration of Ramadan 🌙 #henna #hennaart #thehennaarchive

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Khamissa began sharing more of her henna designs on her profile, and soon enough, likes and comments poured in. Today, aside from taking on clients, the Dubai-based artist has been hosting workshops across the UAE—and according to her it’s turning into a full-fledged movement. “Women love it” she says. “It’s kind of like a feminist movement. Henna is a platform for women to get together. It’s just a cool way to reconnect with our culture.”

 

As time went on, a surge of women across the region joined Khamissa in a movement to modernize henna tradition, sharing photos through a hashtag she created, dubbed #thehennaarchive.

 

So if you’re looking to join in and get a little inspiration for your next henna tattoo, we’ve rounded up some of Azra’s coolest designs to check out.

 

 

 

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An optical illusion #hennaart #henna #thehennaarchive

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She’s got the whole world in her hands 🌏 #henna #hennaart #solarsystem #thehennaarchive

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The Henna Archive cont. #henna #hennaart #thehennaarchive

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