Flagstaff is a town where artists can thrive, whether it be making physical projects, painting around the city or getting tattooed at the local shop down the street. However, there are other art forms in town that come with their own culture and unique take on body ink. Some local shops offer henna and threading, bringing Indian culture to northern Arizona.
Bhumi Threading & Henna Tattoo is a shop in downtown Flagstaff where the property is smaller than the average dorm room, and is highlighted by a single chair standing alone in the middle of the shop. Customers patiently sit to the side as they wait to have their eyebrows threaded in minutes. Pranoti Ithape specializes in threading and henna, and has lived in Flagstaff for six years while running the establishment.
“Henna means tree,” Ithape said. “That is why it is painted with natural colors.”
According to HuffPost, henna is ground into a fine powder to produce a dye. Many artists add essential oils as well. Artists have their methods for applying the paste, which will dry and then is brushed off the skin to reveal the brown ink. The henna fades out over the course of a few days and slowly turns a deep red color before fading for good.
Henna has meaning behind it, but threading is also culturally significant. According to the Bhumi website, threading was first practiced in India more than 6,000 years ago and still remains very popular in India, Middle Eastern countries and Persian culture. It is now gaining popularity in the United States, too. It is healthy for sensitive skin, because it does not use synthetic chemicals — everything is done by cotton thread.
An article on InStyle, a fashion magazine website, explained threading as the process of twisting a piece of thread onto itself and gliding it along the edge of the brow to pluck out hair and shape it. The results last longer than shaving, because hair is removed from the follicle. Even though it can be painful, threading does not damage the skin when done correctly.
Ithape said she has a good relationship with familiar customers who have been coming in for a long time.
Roberta Peaches praised Ithape as she was getting her eyebrows threaded. Peaches said her and her daughter had been coming to Ithape’s business for years.
“She has avid followers,” Peaches said. “We come here from out of town. We’ve been coming since my daughter started high school.”
Another henna and threading business located right next to NAU is Apsu Eyebrow Threading & Henna Tattoo. The business has a friendly atmosphere, bright colored walls and has joyful music playing. An Apsu employee, Apsar Gautam, said she was with the business when it opened about a year ago, and that the business is just getting started.
“We do henna for weddings and in the summer mostly,” Gautam said.
Henna art is an important factor for traditional Hindu weddings because of the importance of rituals and customs. Each artist has a unique method for painting.
The Spruce, a lifestyle website, reported that many Hindu and Muslim weddings have a bridal henna party, called a Mehndi party, before the ceremony. The bride usually has the most intricate henna design, which can take several hours to complete. It is supposed to be a joyful ceremony where the bride is entertained and has wisdom passed on to her by female family and friends. According to The Spruce, henna is believed to give blessings, luck and joy, but is overall a way to enhance beauty through body art.
These local shops are a resource for students and a way for them to experience a culture that may be different from their own. Henna is a way that one can express themselves through body ink that isn’t permanent. Art and beauty can come in many different forms, and these shops are providing new ways to express it.