Henna glove

[b]Top:[/b] Collected and donated by Henry Balfour in 1930; 1930.43.10[br][b]Bottom:[/b] Date and photographer unknownTop: Collected and donated by Henry Balfour in 1930; 1930.43.10
Bottom: Date and photographer unknown
Henna 'glove' - Hausa people, Nigeria, before 1930

This gourd was partially filled with crushed henna leaves and water. A woman then wore it as a glove (as in the photograph) for several days in order to immerse her nails, forearm and palm in the mixture to stain it a deep red. Feet and toenails might also be dyed in this way. The gourd, which is often decorated with patterns or colours, also serves as an ornament during the process.

The Hausa call the local henna plant 'lali' and after it is picked, it is dried in the sun before being crushed to a coarse powder.

Henna is still used by the Hausa and Fulani women of West Africa. Indeed henna plays an important part in one of the local legends about the Hausa people's origins: the story goes that the Hausa communities are the descendants of Bawo, a son conceived when the Queen of Daura, hitherto dedicated to celibacy, dyed her hands and feet with henna and adorned herself in perfume and jewellery to seduce her husband Bayajida, prince of Baghdad.

© 2011 - The Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, England