Henna by Azra: A modern twist to an ancient art

Updated 04 June 2019

Henna by Azra: A modern twist to an ancient art

  • Canadian-South African artist creates modern designs of henna
  • She believes people like henna cause it connects them to their heritage

DUBAI: Around the world, hundreds of thousands of women celebrate Eid by adorning their hands and feet with ornate henna or mehendi — an ancient body art that involves drawing elaborate designs on the skin using plant-based temporary dyes. The artists who create these works are known as hennayas.

In Dubai, one hennaya, Azra Khamissa — a Canadian-South African who speaks fluent Khaleeji Arabic — is making a name for herself with her unique designs that draw inspiration from nature, architecture, anatomy, movement and mood — adding a modern twist to this traditional art form. “I take (inspiration), I guess, from everywhere,” Khamissa told Arab News.

Khamissa initially became interested in henna as a child. “We’d always have a hennaya come to our home before Eid,” she said. “I found the traditional Emirati designs really beautiful. That inspired me to start experimenting with henna myself.”

Before long, she started looking into other traditional forms of henna, including Tunisian and Libyan styles, and was soon inspired to start creating her own. But eventually she grew bored of seeing the same designs over and over again in salons and on social media.

“I think this also inspired me to try henna again, to give it another chance, but with something that I like, something that I wanted,” she told Arab News.

Not everyone appreciates or understands her minimal designs, she admitted. “Traditionally, henna has always been something that you have to do a lot of for it to be beautiful,” she said. But plenty of people have had more positive reactions to seeing henna done in a different way “that connects them to their design philosophy.”

Khamissa, who also runs her own handbag brand, believes nostalgia plays a major role in henna’s ongoing popularity: “It reminds them of their grandmother, (it) reminds them of childhood.”

What We Are Buying Today: Yataghan Jewellery

Updated 20 July 2019

What We Are Buying Today: Yataghan Jewellery

In January, my family celebrated my birthday by gifting me a “Hubb Collection” necklace that I had wanted ever since I laid eyes on it, when one of my relatives wore it.

The design of the word ‘Love’ — written in Arabic Farsi font and angled in a way that makes it heart-shaped — fascinated me, and I have worn the necklace ever since I got it, partly out of sentiment, but also because I find it so beautiful and unique.

Jeddah-based Yataghan Jewellery — the maker of the “Hubb Collection” — has a variety of gold designs, stackable jewel-ornamented hexagon rings, necklaces, bracelets and rings engraved in Arabic Farsi.

The store’s Instagram account @yataghanjewellery documents its trademark pieces and shares customers’ experiences along with how they choose to stack their Yataghan pieces.

Customer favorites include their Allah necklace, and the “Hubb Collection” (rings, necklaces and bracelets in crystalized or standard gold, silver or rose gold with a single colorful or silver crystal).