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Henna Painting Proves Popular at NCC

Colleen Flannery perfected her unique art form by visiting stores owned by people from India. "I actually learned a lot from Indian women, whose husbands owned corner stores," Flannery said. "They would see my hands, and they would start talking."

Flannery's hands are decorated with henna , applied by her own fingers. Her art form is called Mehndi , and she shared it Thursday with Norwalk Community College students and others. The free session was the first event of the school year at the Fairfield County Women's Center at NCC. Bernice Marie-Daly, its director, said all of the center's events are free and open to the public, including monthly lectures.

About 15 people waited in line for a chance to have Flannery paint their skin. "It tickled," said Jennifer Laguna. "It's art, I like it." The henna was thick on her skin, which Flannery said would dry into a cakey form, and then flake off by the end of the day.

It leaves a stain that will remain for up to 14 days. Flannery makes the paint fresh for every session, from henna, which is a plant. "Henna is like saying flour. So you can bake cookies, you can bake a cake, you can do anything with flour, bread, just like the same with henna. You can color your hair, you can color your floor, you can do all sorts of things with henna, but Mehndi is the art of henna painting on the skin."

The art began in Egypt, more than 8,000 years ago, she said. "It's an amazingly historical art form that doesn't get enough credit," she said. Flannery, who studied illustration in college, learned it from a belly dancer. "That was 14 years ago, and I've been doing it ever since," she said. "It's a constant study of art history, of different cultures."

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