Contest #6: Mass Marketing Henna in the USA
Here is an early henna kit from 1998, and henna for hair from the 1920's.
What can we learn from old henna artifacts?
This is the content of one of the earliest mass-distributed, made-in-the-USA henna body art kits. This was never sold in stores, it was given away free as a promotion with Madonna's album," Ray of Light," following her release of "Frozen" February 22, 1998.
The kit was made in India, hand packed in the USA by Ziba Beauty. Ziba was the salon on Pico in Los Angeles that painted Madonna's hands in black henna for the Frozen video, and in natural henna for public appearances and MTV afterwards.
This kit was distributed by Maverick Recording Company, and Warner Bros. Records INC.
Instruction and Declaration slip inside the
Madonna "Ray of Light"
Henna Tattoo Kit.
'Pouch of Herbs' seems to contain cloves, cardamom, and some presently
unrecognizable things that smell like smoky, spicy tea. (after 15
years, an herb mix is bound to be degraded.)|
The bottle listed as containing eucalyptus oil smells overwhelmingly of camphor, and nothing like eucalyptus.
The presence of the cloth was not explained in the kit, but would have been used in India to sift the henna before mixing paste for free-hand application. The kit only approached applying henna through a stencil.
The henna packet appeared to contain about 20 grams of henna.
This is henna for hair from the 1920's, marketed in the USA.
|Instructions for henna for hair have changed over the decades. |
Most of the very early products contained henna leaf only, with instructions to make a rinse by boiling the leaves. As you can see from the image above, the leaves were packed with rough twigs and other plant parts that do not seem to be any identifiable part of henna.
The rough quality of presentation and product by Rexall show how unattractive henna would have been compared to slickly produced and advertised chemical hair dye products at the time.
Until 1970, most of the henna imported into the USA that I have been able to obtain came from Egypt and Tunisia. The USA did not source henna in bulk from India and Pakistan from until the late 1900's.
The change of henna sourcing through popularization of henna through Madonna's video "Frozen" and the Internet changed the focus of henna marketing and the concept of henna from North Africa and the Middle East to South Asia.
The fact that India and Pakistan entered the Internet in the English language as their second, but fluent language of language of business, gave them an advantage over North African and Middle Eastern countries. The communication between the largely English-fluent Internet of the 1990's and South Asia also affected western understanding of henna culture.
Arabic script came later into the Internet than the Roman alphabet. Furthermore, many Arabic speaking governments fire walled their their internees, closing off potential discussion of henna culture between indigenous areas and the west. South Asian henna culture moved rapidly into the on line understanding of henna, and eclipsed North African, Middle Eastern, and Arabic cultural understandings of henna. South Asian companies also had an advantages in communicating to western clients, including South Asian henna companies posting directly into western English-speaking on line forums, and took over henna sourcing from North African and Middle Eastern henna industries.