Middle schoolers watch in awe as Mandy Roberge draws a tattoo on their friend. Photos by By Amelia Tarallo
By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
“Should I do this one or this one?” a middle schooler asked her friend, holding up two cards displaying different designs for henna tattoos. The two were among the many kids who came to the Westwood Library to get the temporary body art. A line formed a long set up tables with kids waiting their turn to get “inked up.”
Henna artist Mandy Roberge laid out dozens of different tattoos she could render - everything from a simple smiley face to ornate Mehndi designs. A Tudor rose, a gecko, and a tribute to Star Wars in the form of an R2-D2 design rounded out the offering. These illustrations are part of a rotation Rachel uses when creating her henna tattoos. “If something is popular, I’ll add them into the collection.”
Some kids asked if she could draw designs not displayed on the table, like Mickey Mouse. “Yup,” Roberge assured them.After picking their designs, the children joined a line of middle schoolers waiting their turn to get a tattoo, some second-guessing their choices. Others were ecstatic that they would be leaving the event with semi-permanent body art (the henna tattoos last about two weeks). Once it was their turn, the kids would sit and let Roberge take over.
Roberge has been doing henna for over a decade. “It satisfies that creative itch while also allowing me to make money,” she said when asked why she loved doing it.
Over 50 kids showed up at at the library event. Roberge attributed her speed - she got through 50 tattoos in only three hours - is thanks to her rule of not drawing a tattoo that takes longer than five minutes. Some, like a small flower, took her less than 30 seconds to complete. “This is the first time I’ve ever come close to running out of henna,” said Roberge, recognizing how popular the event was.
Roberge began doing henna after one of her best friends was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Roberge already had a reputation for her love of doodling. “She had me draw a flower so she could give herself a shot in a different spot every time,” explained Roberge. “She knew I loved to doodle and after that, I never stopped.”
After Roberge finished her work, each child had to wait ten minutes for the henna to dry. This was hard for many, as most of them had just come from school, and were ready to get their energy out. Some took seats on beanbag chairs, sinking into them as they talked with their friends and held their arms up to avoid smudging the henna. The many who had gotten henna on their hands were forced to go without screen time until there henna dried. One girl got her henna tattoo on her leg. “I’m in a tournament this weekend with really strict rules about what can be on our skin,” she explained. She sat in a chair as she waited for hers to dry.
All the kids who came to the event left with a henna tattoo. Some got the designated designs. Others received their special requests, like a famous cartoon or a strawberry.
All left with an understanding of free artistic expression and an appreciation for henna.