Thursday, 24 February 2011

Tattooing the Students

From time to time the interests of my vocational studies students coincide with the English curriculum. On these rare occations there is nothing to do but to leap at the opportunity. A few years ago the planets aligned and one of these savoury moments presented itself.

Ta Moko

We were reading about the Maori version of tattoos, Ta Moko. The text is quite interesting and an audio version can be found here. I printed out large head shots of the students for them to draw mokos on which they duly did. Then, following a discussion on tattoos and their role in our society and the students' lives, they got to watch the following youtube video:

The fact that mokos are made by hammering a combination of ash and fat into the skin with a albatross bone chisels captivates most of the students. That is when it is time for the henna.

Ground henna leaves

Henna is the dried and ground leaves of the henna plant. It is prepared by mixing it with some slightly acidic fluid, like lemon juice. This brings out the dye after a while. It is then applied to the skin in a brownish paste. As the paste dries the dye will bind to the proteins in the skin and stay there for 2-3 weeks. The dye could be removed with lemon juice if one grows tired of it. It is, however, important to tell the students never to accept or apply black henna which might be harmful to the skin.

The shade is determined by the composition of the paste and how long
it stays on the skin

To show the students that brown henna is not dangerous, I normally draw a henna tattoo on my arm the day before. The students then get to apply the paste with brushes in whatever pattern they wish. This hands-on approach is guaranteed to make them remember whatever passed in the classroom that lesson, not only because it is fun and a kinestetic way of learning but also because they afterwards carry a visual reminder of the lesson for three weeks.

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