There are many fascinating wedding traditions across the African continent and one of the most stunningly beautiful is ceremonial henna.

In Kenya, the bride is bathed in sandalwood oils and henna is applied to her limbs. This photo, from Natural Geographic, is of a hennaed Swahili Bride in Kenya;

A Swahili wedding is filled with rituals designed to beautify the bride and heighten the senses. Before her wedding, Fatima has designs drawn on her limbs with twigs dipped in henna.


In Nigeria, applying henna is considered to be an integral part of the wedding ceremony and said application typically lasts 2 weeks, serving as an indicator of the couple’s love. The henna is also said to bring good luck. While the bride has the henna on her hands, she is not obligated to do housework and is pampered as the new bride in the family.

Henna’ is an art form that has been transformed from traditional adornment to fit into the current fashion trend; it is made from herbs, which means it is all natural. The powder is extracted from a ‘henna’ plant, where the leaves are dried and grounded into a fine powder. This powder would then be mixed with water, eucalyptus oil, tea, coffee, and lime and then applied on the body. ‘Henna’ is used to create temporary tattoos mainly on the hands and feet of a woman. People usually choose areas that are visible – the palm, arm, feet, wrist or around the navel. There are different designs and patterns that can be intricately displayed on a woman’s hand.

























Gorgeous! For even more designs, check this video;

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24 Comments on "25 Stunning Images of Traditional Kenyan and Nigerian Bridal Henna Tattoos"

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Mix with black tea. Not the tea leaves, but boil the tea leaves and use that. The blacker the tea, the darker the tattoos. The less bitter the tea, the lighter the tattoo. But yu have to let the paste (henna and tea mix) sit for several minutes.


regular henna doesn’t show on our skin


These are actually really unsafe, “black henna” designs which are not natural or authentic. Henna is never black naturally and unfortunately a lot of countries now use this “black henna” (actually PPD) as a “traditional” method when it is not at all the original plant.


I think they might have used indigo, which is natural and black (it comes in powdered form like mendhi). A Nigerian woman told me this. Indigo is safe to use but it doesn’t last long like henna (the green powder)… However “black henna” does have harmful chemicals (PPD) which are added to it.


I thought that at first too but indigo is not nearly that dark, it normally shows up blue on the skin… There could be other things added to make it dark (safe or unsafe), but it’s definitely not pure henna


Beautiful black women. The tattoos are very artistic and creative

All Shades

Ayyy Hausa women represent!!! I enjoy finding articles like these. It goes to show that henna is deeply rooted in many African cultures. It isn’t only in South Asian countries like India.


This is to say that most western culture likely originated from Africa.


Oh My Lord! These ladies are Gorgeous!

Hakim Hasan

This is Kenyan..

s lynn

Actually that is a PART of Kenyan culture. The swahili who are Kenyan based at the coast of Kenya do Henna tattoos. We have 46 tribes in Kenya, the Maasai you’re showing are only a tiny part of our culture.

Hakim Hasan

We both agreed on this but the only problem is that this is a false representation of that culture.

Henceforth it looks more Hindi than Kenyan. I have friends form Kenya and they are laughing there asses off at this.

s lynn
I’d like to see these Kenyan friends of yours as they haven’t lived among the Swahili & clearly don’t know their culture! Henna tatoos are traditionally used among the Swahili & have been used for centuries. Henna is also used in neighbouring Uganda, Tanzania & Zanzibar. I used to pick the plant in Mombasa(some people grow it) and we’d dry it and mix it with tea to use on skin. Henna has been used for years! Some older women in the coast of Kenya even mixed it with black tea to hide gray hair & this has been done for… Read more »
Philly Jawn



Nigeria is made up off many different ethnic groups. Henna is mostly worn by Northern Muslims but it’s popularity is slowly increasing in the south.

Jenee Smith

why is their henna darker?


It looks like ppd (a dangerous chemical hair dye) it’s actually very wide spread and not many people know that it is unsafe. They use it because it gets a quick, dark stain that cannot be achieved with true henna. Even in african countries and india, ppd use is becoming common.

Varah Potter

THAT’S SO COOL! Gosh I wish I had things like this in my culture.


These women are so beautiful. I love the henna tattoos and thought it was only Indians did this. Well I learn something new everyday.


I thought the same. I’m glad I learned this tid-bit of info.


This is soooooo beautiful!!!


this is beautiful. African women and black women in general are beautiful!


“In Nigeria, applying henna is considered to be an integral part of the wedding ceremony and said application typically lasts 2 weeks, serving as an indicator of the couple’s love. ” Actually, henna application is common practice in the Northern part of Nigeria. Regardless thanks for promoting our culture.

African Naturalistas Products
African Naturalistas Products

Exactly. I was going to say exactly that. I have never seen a bride with henna before, even though I have lived all my life in Nigeria. And that is because it is only common in the northern part, among the Hausa tribe and few Muslims. Anyway, after seeing these pictures, I think I will use henna during my wedding even though I am neither Hausa nor muslim