Nadine Dafrawy – The Henna Project

Say hello to Nadine :

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Where are you from?  Where have you been?

I’m Egyptian-American. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Cairo, Egypt. The one thing I always spent my money on that made me richer was travelling. So I’ve literally journeyed throughout the world. I’ve been to: Thailand, Malaysia, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Ukraine, Italy, Paris, Spain, Portugal, Canada, all over the United States, and I still plan on seeing much more of the globe.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

Other than my very underrated homeland, Egypt, my favorite trip I’ve ever been to is without a doubt Marrakech, Morocco. It’s the whole reason I got into henna to begin with. I have a whole blog on my website dedicated to just this.

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Photographer: Tamer Ibrahim

If you had to explain ‘Henna’ to someone who has never heard of it before, how would you describe it?

Luckily, it is so rare that people (even abroad) to have not heard of henna. However, if I had to explain – henna is an all natural paste that is applied on the skin much like tooth-paste on a tooth-brush, but we produce art out of it, and it sticks to the skin somewhere from one to three weeks depending on the body part and how intricate the design is.


What is your dream project?

There are two major charitable projects I would love to create and work on indefinitely, completely for free. One is offering henna crowns to cancer patients with hair loss as a way to uplift their spirits, and second, hennaing domestic violence abuse victims.


How do you find inspiration behind your designs?

Inspiration is everywhere. Originally having a graphic design background, I’ve been trained to not just work within a comfortable frame, but explore and go above and beyond. Other than the typical henna Pinterest and Instagram accounts I follow to be inspired, I also look at photography, art galleries, multimedia – you name it. I also have a habit of going through ‘boho/gypsy/hippie/yoga’ inspired fashion, which always complements henna designs.

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Do you get inspiration blocks? If so, how do you overcome them?

Yes definitely! I’d usually take a small break because I learnt forcing it just ends up making you frustrated and more blocked than you first started out. Before I start out designing, I talk with the client – first ask them of their likes/dislikes, what their hobbies are, and feeding off their energy always helps in melting away that block.


Does henna influence your career as a graphic designer?

Undeniably, yes! People fail to understand that graphic designers are artists too, except what we do is through a computer screen. With my studies in Boston, I learned as graphic designers, it’s as important to dwell on what art offers outside what a laptop can offer. Henna making definitely complements that.


Tell us about henna artistry. What sparked your interest and how did you get started?

When I was much younger, my aunt had her own henna business called ‘Layla’s Henna’ (named after her daughter) in Washington DC. I always looked through her practice books and was astonished by its beauty. As I grew older, I took a trip to Morocco and just noticed the henna all around me. I was on the trip with my aunt on that trip and asked her questions, reminiscing the days when she used to do henna. It just came as an epiphany that I wanted to try it out. I was always susceptible to the art world, so it came as no surprise. The rest was history.

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Out of your works, which are your favorites?

This is actually a bit tough – artists are especially critical of their own work. While I do have work I’m proud of, I will still look at it with a criticizing eye, coming up with ways it could have been made better. So it’s challenging, because I continuously want to better my work, especially with a lot of other talented henna artists around. But I find that to be very healthy and it pushes you to improve.


What impact do you hope your work leaves on society?

I’ve been slowly trying to shift away from my day time graphic design ‘hat’ and focus more on becoming a full-time henna artist. The reason I’m so adamant about that is because I feel henna often reprises people and brings a lot of joy. It uplifts spirits and the best aspect is that it’s like a ‘natural makeover.’ So to sum it up, I’m hoping my henna work leaves a positive, peaceful and meditative impact on society, as well as having it celebrate tradition and culture.

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What was the most memorable response to your work?

I was hennaing an expecting mother-to-be on her baby bump – it’s such an enjoyable experience to both myself and the mother. The best response yet was from the baby himself who would keep kicking with excitement every time I tried to henna her belly. Nothing is better than a little unborn child cheering you on. 🙂


What themes do you explore in your work?

The list is endless. Henna comes in many styles and themes, such as: Arabic, Moroccan, Gulf, Indian, etc. What I try to do differently though is take mainstream things and embed it with henna, such as incorporating zentangle in animals, or maybe even Star Wars.

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Professionally, where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

Hoping to become a leading henna artist and a mehndi destination wedding specialist. Henna goes hand in hand with the wedding industry, but I’d like to take it a step further and explore the world whilst doing it, acting as any couple’s henna artist vendor accompanying them in their dream wedding. There’s nothing more remarkable to me. I’ve always criticized the wedding industry in big fancy chain hotels, which is why I’d like to promote ceremonies in underrated places like Egypt, Morocco, and South America, helping support developing countries and its locals, rather than making the rich richer.


What challenges do you face in your work currently?

Given that I’m located in Toronto, the biggest challenge with henna is it’s highly seasonal – much like ice cream. Being covered in layers for warmth in the Canadian winter, people are not as encouraged in acquiring henna (understandably so). However, to overcome this issue, I’ve been avidly practicing henna-like patterns on cookies, cakes, and cupcakes in hopes of offering that alongside to my actual henna tattoo services.


For anyone who wants to get in touch with Nadine, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Website: www.thehennaproject.net

Facebook: Profile

Instagram: @TheHennaProject

Flickr: Profile


Nadine, thank you for sharing your story with us! 🙂

If any artists out there want to collaborate with FStop, don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Also, remember to download the FStop app for iPhone here!

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