Sunday, December 14, 2014

CHW India: Mehndi

India was our focus for Cultural Heritage Week this year. My 4th-6th grade students chose a starting point from the "Art is Culture" bulletin board and were free to branch out from there with their own ideas. One of the most popular starting points was mehndi. Mehndi (henna) is applied on the hands and feet of Indian brides and can also be used for other special occasions. There's a nice article about Mehndi in Indian Marriages here
We talked about how the ink is made from leaves, how the designs are applied, that the designs are temporary so not really "tattoos", and what elements are used to create the designs (lots of lines, organic shapes and images, repetition, etc.) I created a "cheat sheet" with different kinds of shapes and lines I've observed in looking at many, many, images of mehndi and some tips for getting started. The cheat sheets were really helpful for the students. I will try to scan the cheat sheet and share it later.
Most students interested in mehndi chose to start by tracing their hand and wrist, then planning out their designs with pencil. When I watched the application of mehndi, there was obviously no erasing. The students were more comfortable with the safety net of a pencil. After the designs were planned, most traced with sharpie. Many students used construction paper from the Pacon Multicultural Construction Paper pack. It was nice to have 10 different skin tones so students could choose one that matched their own if they wanted. Some students used white paper instead with the intention of adding color.
Some designs were left clean and simple, either with a blank background or cutting out the arm and gluing to a new piece of construction paper.
Some students combined the idea of mehndi with what they learned about block printing in India. Craft foam and cardboard were used to create stamps. Metallic gold paint was the most popular choice for stamping.
Metallic anything is usually popular at my schools. The student below used metallic colored pencils to create a border of different patterns. 
Many students also used bleeding art tissue on top of their mehndi designs. You can see more tissue examples here!

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