The Old Traditional Art in Northern Nigeria, Lalli decoration plays the same role as its modern variant beautifying the body. However unlike the permanent modern tattoos which are able to last for years or sometimes forever, lalli designs are meant to last just for few days, weeks or months depending on the amount of ingredients used and how often the painting comes in contact with water.
The act of Lalli or Henna decoration remains not only within northern Nigerian women as this same act has been practised between Islamic countries and related to culture of other non-Islamic countries like India and the rest. But research still has it that henna body decoration came from northern African countries while spread to other regions and countries due to slave trade in the pre-colonial time.
Lalli or Henna as it is commonly called is a plant/flower or back extract which is mixed with some other ingredients like lemon juice and cloves and used to beautify the skin and fingers in artistically wrought patterns. The designs are mainly of different plants and flowers, but the bride is allowed to choose whatever design she wants from the local design dialogue.
Unlike the modern tattoo where needles, tracing outlines and machines are used, doing the lalli painting is different. First one has to get the mixture ready after which it is out in a nylon bag with a tiny hole made at the tip or any appropriate narrow-tipped receptacles. When pressed the lalli comes out into the desired patterns under the artistic guidance of the decorator. When this is completed, the lalli client will have to wash off with ordinary water. At this point the design is not visible until, a cotton wool dipped in hydrogen and water solution is used to clean the decorated area. It is after this process that the design will begin to show.
These days, northern brides are not the only ones painting their hands and feet with lalli. Brides from other parts of Nigeria have joined the lalli body decorating wagon, thus recreating a traditional art into a contemporary fashion statement.