African Pillar 1: Mombasa’s Mama Tatu the Henna Artist…

One lazy Thursday afternoon Shrina and I took a stroll on the beach as we discussed what we needed to do to wind up our coast trip. As we were making our way back to the room, a pleasant woman stopped and commented on my freshly done tattoo.

She then proceeded to inform us that she was a henna artist and asked us if we were interested in getting one. Shrina accepted the offer and we proceeded to get comfortable by the pool.

I had never witnessed a henna session before so my curiosity was aroused.

Mama Tatu is her name. She has been a henna artist for over twenty years in Mombasa. She does it full time, this is the sole source of income for her household.

I was fascinated by her stories about Mombasa and her life. I choose her as my first African Pillar (Click here for my definition of African Pillars) because she represents your indigenous hard-working, charming, old school African woman who earns her keep and holds her own.

6 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

Henna is dye prepared from the plant and the art of temporary tattooing based on these dyes. It is used to dye skin, hair, and fingernails, as well as fabrics including silk, wool, and leather.

The procedure started with Mama Tatu making the mixture and putting it in a makeshift cone made out of wrapping paper.

1 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 2 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 3 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 4 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

She then cuts a tiny hole on the tip which is what she uses to precisely apply the henna. Shrina then picked her design of choice from Mama Tatu’s design books.

photo (2) 5 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

She then proceeds to delicately yet steadily draw the design on Shrina’s leg.

7 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 8 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 9 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 14 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 16 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 17 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 18 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 19 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 20 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 21 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

After the drawing is done, we waited for a couple of minutes for the henna to dry. Mama Tatu then wiped off the top layer to complete the process.

27 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

Here is the final product:

26 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

Mama Tatu has no Facebook page or website. She was walking around with a picture album with hard copies of her work. I took pictures of the pictures to illustrate some of her work.

22 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 23 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 24 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo 25 Henna Mombasa Akinyi Adongo

So the next time you are in Mombasa and you need a temporary henna tattoo, call Mama Tatu on +254729470281 and she will gladly draw something to your liking…

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