The Significance of Henna in Northern Nigerian Weddings

If you have ever attended a Hausa or Fulani wedding, you must have noticed certain designs on the bride’s body - her henna.Henna is made from the leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis), the henna dye is used to create beautiful and temporary designs on the skin, particularly on the hands and feet, as a form of body art.

The use of henna for body art has been practised for thousands of years in various cultures around the world. The practice was introduced to northern Nigeria as early as the period of the Roman empire and since then, henna designs have been present in special occasions such as weddings, festivals, and other celebrations.

In northern Nigeria, the use of henna, also referred to as Laali, is not just a way for them to express themselves culturally but also, a symbol of beauty, grace, and femininity. In addition, it is believed that henna can bring good luck and ward off evil spirits.

For the Fulani or Hausa bride who uses henna, the intricate designs are a way for her to showcase her creativity and express her individuality, as each design is unique and personalised.
The process of drawing the henna on the hands, palms and feet, also called the ‘Wuni or Sa Lalle’ is seen as an important pre-wedding step by the bride, her family and friends.

This celebration is seen as the time when a bride gets to spend her last time in her father’s house surrounded by friends and family and also a way for families and communities to come together and celebrate the union of two families.

During the Wuni or Sa Lalle, other activities take place like; storytelling, singing, and dancing. The bride also bonds with the women in her family and community.

It can also be said that apart from it being a piece of art, henna plays a significant role in northern Nigerian weddings as a way to celebrate tradition, beauty, and community.