WCC 010: Natalie Santiago

WCC 010: Natalie Santiago

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Natalie Santiago is a professional henna artist and Phd. candidate interested in the rhetoric of body art.


Show Notes

  • Henna (or Mendi) is a natural dye made of Henna Leaf mixed up with water or lemon juice, essential oils, and sugar, and applied via cones to create intricate patterns on various parts of the body.
  • Different skin complexions take henna applications to different degrees. Some people don’t take them at all.
  • Patterns must be adapted to suite the individual’s body contours.
  • Henna art involves a great deal of research and large communities of practitioners.
  • Professional artists mix their own pastes, and this is what separates them from the hobbyists.
  • Pattern books are sold and patterns can be replicated to internalize the nature of the art, but Natalie prefers to design her own, and has numerous sketchbooks full of potential patterns.
  • She will do henna at street fests for up to 10 hours a day.
  • Henna artists wear their own designs, including their mistakes.
  • Henna stains the top layer of epidermis, and will slowly flake off as the skin exfoliates. Hands and feet typically stain for two weeks, on the legs stains stay for three weeks.
  • Backs and stomachs sometimes don’t take pigment because the skin may be too thin.
  • Henna is more similar to tattoo than a lot of other forms of body art.
  • Clients will often share emotional stories while being worked on.
  • Historical records show that Henna originated as a practice among Christians, Muslims, and Hindi, until the Spanish Inquisition, when the Church wanted to discourage anything reminiscent of Islam.
  • Henna grew in popularity with middle-eastern and Indian immigration in the 1980s.
  • Body art can be a form of communication.
  • Natalie started practicing Henna as a form of healing after an armed robbery, as a form of meditation to avoid fixating.
  • Living in a college town with a large transient population gives Natalie great exposure to other cultural influences.
  • She has a non-competitive cooperative business model.

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