Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mehendi Symbols, Patterns and meanings

Mehendi is a custom or tradition in India that has been present and handed down for centuries together. Initially used mainly for its healing and cooling properties, Mehendi, or "Henna" as its more popularly known here, has become famous for its designs all the way till the West. Today Mehendi designing has become commercial and is part of many important Indian ocassions, infact in an Indian wedding the "Mehendi" is a seperate day and occassion itself!

Mehendi designing is much more than just 'designing'. Like everything traditional in India, it symoblises a lot more than being just pleasing to look and feel, its mostly known to bring Good luck to the wearer. The darker the color the better the luck!..

I have done research on what these Mehendi symbols and motifs mean and have listed some of the main motifs incorporated in Mehendi designs.

In India, board games have been popular since time immemorial. This simple
representation of a game board is a traditional Indian henna pattern dating at least to the late 19th century, and continues to be included in contemporary patterns. Artists may include this pattern as a metaphor for the "game of chance" that is a marriage, or as an expression of games as an enjoyable holiday activity.*

"Some people call this pattern a scorpion, some call it a pot hook, others call it a meander, some see it as a growing vine, while others speculate that it was used as an ancient symbol of reincarnation or life force. As a simple image of a scorpion, it is a symbol dating to the Middle Eastern late neolithic and early Bronze age and was associated with
women. The scorpion was a symbol of the goddess Inanna. Henna patterns from Rajasthan from before 1950 often have little scorpions on the fingers. Old henna and love songs use the metaphor of the scorpion for love: love, like a scorpion sting, makes one breathless, causes a massive hot hard swelling, and the inflamed part feels better when
dunked into something moist and soothing. The scorpion is also used in henna as a protective amulet, to "sting" the Evil Eye."

The Bud is one motif that is used widely by designers in mehendi in India and world over. Buds signify new growth like at the end of a drought and at the beginning of a rainy season or as a metaphor in bridal mehendi to symbolise the start of a new love and a new life.

Water ripples.

Ripples with bubbles in them.

Peacocks and the paisely are supposed to represent fertility and good luck.

These patterns are known as mandalas which means 'circle'and these circles are made to symbolise the Sun. The sun holds a lot of importance in Hinduism. It symbolises caring and protective of infertility, hunger, and sorrows of old age and death;It is also a symbol of blessing and fertility

Hand Gestures and Meanings in Indian Dance

The Indian Dance Bharatnatyam is an ancient form of dance which is said to have originated since the time of the Gods. Bharatnatyam consists of a combination of expression through facial, body and hand movements. Each of these categories are further divided into numerous other categories and then further into sub categories.

In terms of the hand movements alone the expressions can be broadly classified into two categories :'Asamyuta Hasta' - Single hand gestures and 'Samyuta Hasta' - Double hand gestures. In my project I will be using a combination of these two most likely. There are 28 Asamyuta hastas & 24 Samyuta hastas. Below I have mentioned only the few gestures that are relevant to my concept and my project. However I will be consulting either a Bharatnatyam instructor or student about the gestures and how to hold them in order for me to carry out my photo shoot succesfully.

Shukatunda Hasta-To Shoot an Arrow, Weapon, Saying Cunning things, Showing Fury.

Alapadma Hastha- Pain of seperation, Mirror, Full moon, Beautiful things,wind, water , anger.

Kartarimukha-the separation of man and a woman, opposition/ 
turning or rolling, the corners of the eye, death, to show differences, lightning, sleeping alone, sorrow, downfall, creeper.

Chatura hastha- Wetness, Sadness, Taste, Eye, Differentiate colors, Promise, Romance, Slow movement, Breaking,Seat, Melted Butter, Oil.

Mushti -to show wrestlers in combat mode.

Pasha-To fight with others, rope, chain.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Devi sample pics

These were two illustrations I made to just give an idea of what I wanted my painting to look like. Either I make half of me modern and the other half traditional on the same photo or I just showed two seperate photos. I went ahead and had the photo shoot and portrayed the same idea with photos of me.

This final piece was a little more detailed with a colored bacground representing each side. I was trying to incorporate my computer made illustration and combine it with my photo. I have done that by wrapping some of the patterned twines around my arms. I wanted to show that my 'influences'- like family/tradition etc are 'growing' onto me. By using the collage of photos in the background I was trying to represent the different influences in my they were my friends. If you squint a bit you might recognise a few people...hehe!

Tweeked Final Concept

Based on Michael Bray's useful recommendation, which was to stick to a field I am more experienced with which is either painting or graphic designing, I have decided to change the 'medium' of my idea and create a piece which incorporates, print, paint and a little 3D stuff too.

For me family plays an extremly important role in my life. In my opinion a family is the FOUNDATION of an individual's personality, much like the foundation of a building. If the foundation is weak, the building is unstable and struggles to stay up. It works hand in glove, the stronger the foundation, the stronger the building will be to withstand any external forces acting upon it. Similarly if a person comes from a family that is strong, close knit, loving and affectionate that will result in the person being self confident and ready to face the world head on. BUT if thats not the case and if its much the opposite, it clearly shows in the individual's personality- they are depressed, confused, lonely, lack confidence and insecure about everything. INSECURTIY is something that I want to show in this project. In terms of that weak or unstable base. It is very unlike an Indian girl to go out in public and talk about her family such, so dealing with this topic itself is a challenge. But I have seen Indian families that maybe extremly distant from each other on the inside but put on a show and pretend that alls hale and hearty on the outside. This results in devastating the girl's future and I wish to shed some light on this. I want to focus on how important it is to have a secure and strong foundation or 'family" in shaping up a person.

The piece will consist of 2 photos of me. One side of me in traditional clothes and the other in modern clothes. This is to represent the 2 distinct sides of me that I have to try and balance. These photos of mine will be stuck back to back. The traditional side of me will represent things that are more personal and important to me: family and friends. They are close to my heart: warm and earthy. They literally represent the warmth in my life; whether their contribution results in fury, disgust, frustration, love, passion. I associate all these feelings with the colors red and orange. Red and orange are fiery colors that can represent an array of emotions ranging from love/passion to extreme fury and action. For that reason the color scheme of the traditional side of me will be hues and shades of red-orange as it best represents my feelings and tradition.

The background that I will use for the photograph will be a painting much like Van Goghs paintings, where he laid down thick layers of paint in swirls most often. The thick paint in swirls will show the series of tumultuous emotions that I experience with my family and friends. I will not use and subjects as it will compete with my photo and I dont want that.

The modern side I associate with feelings such as cold,fear, loneliness , fake's, blue feelings, foggy, eery. When I went and checked uo the dictionary for meanings of the word BLUE I got-exhausted and speechless, as from excessive anger, physical strain, holding or offering little hope; dismal; bleak, marked by blasphemy,melancholy. These represent the 'modern' feelings for me in a nutshell. But to give it a colder and more eery overtone I will be mixing grays to give it a steely type of coldness.

Here too the background of my photo will be a plain painting consisting of paint laid down in simple smooth strokes. Here the feelings arent agitated or loud but more subtle and almost no feeling at all. I might use pins/ needles or pin like figures in the painting to represent my interpretation of people in the world outside my family and friends: selfish, fake and cold. Pin like structures look ghost like and look mean too. I am not sure about that as yet.

As for the photos themselves I shall be printing them on canvas most likely and cutting up the photos into large random sections. Then I will lightly burn the edges of the sections and reattach the sections to make the photo recognisable as me. I will re attach the sections either with bandaids, staples, tape, stitches or some fine thread to show its not strong and could easily break again.

In the area of the heart I will cut out a small section through the board and place a small glass with water filled only 1/4th with water. This glass will be wrapped with something that resembles barbed wire. The water represents my feelings basically, like water they keep changing easily and quickly depending on what object or in case of my feelings, 'situation' they are in. The 1/4th ratio is to represent the famous quote "You can either view your life as a glass half empty of half full of water", In my case its only 1/4th 'filled' and 3/4ths empty. I could also half fill the glass to better represent the saying. The barbed wire represents the protection I use to guard my fragile and unstable feelings(water) and when people try to get to know me well they might often get hurt in the process. The glass itself represents my heart, and this entire piece shows my heart is easily breakable/fragile, but is well guarded.

In place of my mind or my forehead I will also cut out a small section and place a messy ball of wire or wool. This is to represent the confusion.( I know I have to push this concept further. )

I want to either hang my painting or place it in a shallow tray or box of sand. By hanging it I show that I am unstable and can easily be moved or made unstable. The sand box idea is to show the weak foundation concept. I most likely will go with the latter as it works better concept and practicality-wise.

As with my earlier idea in sculpture I will still have more than 2 hands and these will be positioned in certain gestures to represent certain feelings such as anger or sorrow. These will be from the traditonal hand gestures used in the famous Indian traditional dance called "Bharatnatyam" where hand gestures play a crucial role in telling a story. I plan to create castes of my own hands for this and then paint them with a uniform color to further represent the feeling. Most likely it will be red for the traditional side.

I thought that the hands will look rather plain on their own so I thought if covering them with the famous Indian art of 'mehendi" which is used widely over the world now. Mehendi is also known as 'henna" and is used to decorate mainly the hands and feet of women in India. These mehendi patterns were mainly put on a brides hands and the symbols represented different things like good luck charms. For example one motif that is often used in bridal mehendi is the peacock which represents 'fertility' other motifs include the sun=caring and protective of infertility, hunger, and sorrows of old age and death; symbol of blessing and fertility and an elephant with a raised trunk= good luck. I decided to use this mehendi technique to tell a story on my hands. Either to represent emotions or to represent a story about each of the influences in my life. There are also hand gestures that represent people. In the traditonal side I might just use the hand gestures to represent the different family members and the mehendi patterns on the hands to represent their contribution or their 'story'.

As for my facial expressions I most likely will have a blank expression but with my eyes closed to show that I often dont want to face reality. I am not sure whether I should keep my eyes open or closed, though I think the latter works better.