Tuesday, May 29, 2007

MEHNDI LAGA KE RAKHNA...

Today is a momentous day in the history of my country, Nigeria. Less than two hours ago on this 'Democracy Day', our third elected president, Umaru Shehu Yar'Adua, was sworn in; in the first civilian-to-civilian handover in the history of this nation. Although I don't think the elections were credible, I am glad that the transition seems to be happening relatively peacefully.

Three elected presidents in almost 47 years of independence - not a great record, but at least we seem to be on the right track. For all the problems and mistakes of the last eight years, I don't think any Nigerian would prefer a dictatorial military administration to a civilian one. We definitely have a very long way to go, and I am optimistic, not because there are lots of reasons for optimism, but simply because I think there is no other option but to stay positive and hope that our new leaders will work towards a better Nigeria. But it's not just their job, every Nigerian has a role to play, and I firmly believe that, working together, we can make it happen.

There are many reasons I love Nigeria - our wonderfully rich tapestry of cultures and languages, our amazing history, art, music, cuisine; the fact that it's where I was born (and have lived all my life) and therefore feel most connected to, but most of all I love the Nigerian people. We are resilient, resourceful, beautiful, talented, strong, sincere, proud, hardworking, independent... and we have a fantastic sense of humour - no matter how tough life is, we keep smiling and laughing in the face of adversity. So many of us have the capacity to inspire others in so many ways. I am really, really proud of the Nigerian people. Yes, we do have our flaws, like every other nation, and we definitely have some bad eggs among us who have not exactly painted us in rosy hues across the world, but the majority of Nigerians are good people.

Everyday, I come across young people with integrity, decency, intellience, grace and just sheer grit and determination... and for this reason alone, I believe this country has a great future, regardless of all the hurdles that we'll need to scale to get there. Our fathers may have failed us, but we don't have to perpetuate the vicious cycle by failing our own children. I am so glad that I was born Nigerian, I'm so glad that I live in this wonderful, flawed, blessed, infuriating, complex, wonderful, crazy, beautiful, diverse, frustrating country, and.. well, I just LOVE my Naija (to the bone, as my Jamaican brothers would say).

Anyway, since I'm apparently in a patriotic mood today, I thought I'd post a few photos taken during my cousin's recent wedding. My cousin is from the (predominantly muslim and Hausa-speaking) northern part of the country, which meant that we (the younger females in the family) got to have 'laali' (or 'laale') applied. (Yayy!)

'Laale' is the Hausa name for the henna plant ('mehndi' in Hindi). The crushed leaves of the henna plant have been used for many, many years to decorate female skin, in many parts of Asia, Africa (especially Northern Africa) and the Middle East. In the eastern part of Nigeria, the henna plant is called 'uli', I'm not sure what it's called in the western part (it might be called 'laale' there as well). As children, we used to pluck the leaves of the plant and crush them, then apply them to our fingernails for a reddish stain - we called it 'natural nail polish'. It's important not to use 'laale' that's been mixed with PPD, because that can cause severe allergic reactions.

'Laale' is a HUGE part of Hausa weddings, and the bride, her friends and the young female members of the family, usually get 'laale' applied to their hands and feet. As you will see from the pictures, 'laale' designs look very different from 'mehndi' designs, they incorporate the cultural insignia and unique devices of Hausa art. Naturally, the bride's decorations are usually the most intricate and beautiful, and she may get 'laale' applied to many different parts of her body apart from her hands and feet. It is also customary to do some special designs for the groom's eyes only - on a part of her body only he will get to see after all the guests have left. 'Our' beautiful bride at this wedding had really beautiful and elegant 'laale' done, as these pictures show...


The rest of us mostly just got our hands done.... in this picture, most of us still have the 'fresh' henna on (we had not yet peeled off the thick paste). One of these hands is mine...



I know the Bollywood connection to this post is rather tenuous (although 'mehndi' is definitely a big part of Indian weddings, which are a huge part of Bollywood films, right? And there is A LOT of patriotism in some Bollywood films, right? So, not so way off after all)... anyway, I will hopefully be back with something 'really' Bollywood-related someday soon.

13 comments:

Beth said...

Cool post! I like learning stuff like this :)

Sanket Vyas said...

Wonderful post and the laale designs are just beautiful. Like the songs says - it's a small world after all!

9ja Opeke said...

The world is truly a global-village…we all do the same things but it different way. I have always wanted to do the ‘henna’ thing on my hands & feet…maybe someday…Thanks for sharing this post and for being a patriotic Nigerian.
I love my country too…

Daddy's Girl said...

Thanks guys!

Uzo said...

I know your hand oh...I am excited as a friend of mine who is from the North is getting married at the end of the month and i get to do the Laale thing as welll......So cool

t-hype said...

Thanks for sharing. That's really cool and this: "It is also customary to do some special designs for the groom's eyes only..." is now being added to my To-Do list. ;)

Alan said...

Absolutely wonderful post. I love reading about the culture and customs of a foreign land from the local point of view.

Looks like all the women have long, slim and graceful fingers. Did you take the hands picture?

The "special designs" is a cool idea.

aaabdullahi01 said...

i just luv the post and iwant to befriend the writer as i noticed that we hv something in common.below is my e-mail address aaabdullahi01@yahoo.com
tnx

Daddy's Girl said...

@uzo: Can't wait to see yours!

@t-hype: You've just given me an idea... thanks!

@alan: Yes, I took the picture. Thanks for complimenting our hands!

@abdullahi: Thanks.

Andy said...

DG, oh my! You are such an unabashedly lover of music...so many songs.

Alan said...

Since you're holding the camera, I'm guessing you're the bottom middle of the picture.

Daddy's Girl said...

@andy: Like I said, my drug of choice. LOL Have a good weekend.

@alan: Nice guess - and very very close, but not quite right. LOL

Daddy's Girl said...

I guess by that comment I have just given away which hand is mine... oh well.