A Lively Journey Through Eyeliner: Unveiling the Secrets of a Cosmetics Marvel

The Mesmerizing Journey of Eyeliner From Ancient Egypt to Present-day, Unveiling its Beauty, Resilience, and Spiritual Connection

Eyeliner, originating from ancient Egypt, has had various uses—from beautifying to resisting, ultimately helping us connect with the divine.

Collage of people putting on eyeliner through history. Image Source: Getty; Isabel Fernandez-Pujol /BI

Eyeliner, oh eyeliner! If you think this little cosmetic wand is no big deal, then think again! Zahra Hankir, a journalist extraordinaire, has opened our eyes to the mesmerizing world of eyeliner in her new book, Eyeliner: A Cultural History. Brace yourselves, my fellow fashionistas, for this captivating chronicle will take you on a whirlwind tour across centuries and continents, revealing the unexpected origins and captivating stories behind this beauty staple.

Picture this: Zahra Hankir, armed with her trusty eyeliner, ready to conquer the world. But this habit of hers was more than just a makeup routine inherited from her Lebanese immigrant mother, it was a connection to her ancestry, a spiritual link to the women in her life. As she boldly states, “When she applied eyeliner, it was really like everything would come to a standstill.” And oh boy, did she uncover the secrets that lie beneath the winged strokes!

Our journey begins in ancient Egypt, the birthplace of eyeliner. But let me tell you, eyeliner knows no boundaries! From the male members of the Wodaabe tribe in Chad, who use eyeliner to woo potential brides through captivating dances, to the Mexican American women in Los Angeles painting dramatic wings as a symbol of homage to their mothers, eyeliner transcends gender, culture, and time. It’s a rebellious act, a conformist statement, and an enchanting tradition all at once.

But wait, there’s more to eyeliner than meets the eye (pun totally intended). It carries the weight of power, race, religion, and community, making it a force to reckon with. Zahra Hankir masterfully navigates through these realms, showcasing the immense significance of eyeliner and challenging us to view it through a new lens. So, my dear fashion lovers, prepare to have your perceptions flipped and your spirits lifted as we delve into the wonders of eyeliner together.

Now, dear readers, you might be wondering how Zahra Hankir, a political and economic expert, found herself diving into the world of eyeliner. It all began during a dinner conversation with an Iranian friend, discussing the importance of eyeliner in their respective cultures. That “aha” moment struck like a bolt of lightning, and the rest is history. Sometimes, the most unexpected detours lead to the most enchanting discoveries.

What makes eyeliner so enchanting, you may ask? Well, besides framing your beautiful eyes (which are indeed the windows to your soul), eyeliner holds a deeper symbolism. Across various cultures and communities, the eyes are revered for not only their aesthetic value but also their spiritual and identity-defining significance. From the Prophet Muhammad’s use of eyeliner in Islam, to contemporary TikTokers using different eyeliner angles to decode generational gaps, eyeliner weaves tales and sends coded messages through its artful strokes. It’s as if eyeliner has a language of its own, telling stories of rebellion, tradition, and belonging.

Now, choosing which communities to include in the book was no easy feat for Zahra Hankir. But let me tell you, eyeliner has spread its wings far and wide, leaving no culture untouched. From ancient Egypt’s kohl origins to the fierce Bedouin community in Petra, eyeliner has a universal appeal. It guards against the glare of the sun, repels evil eyes in India and Japan, and even serves as a tool of resistance for Iranian women challenging societal norms. Can you believe it? Eyeliner truly unites us all in the most magical way.

Speaking of magical, let me whisk you away to the Worso festival in Chad. Imagine a male beauty contest where Wodaabe men spend hours adorning their faces with natural materials, including kohl. The result? A dance-off like no other that celebrates beauty, culture, and the power of eyeliner. Truly a sight to behold!

And here’s the cherry on top, my friends. While makeup is often seen as a mask, a way to hide behind a facade, eyeliner is the complete opposite. It’s a form of self-expression and a connection to one’s heritage. Zahra Hankir’s boyfriend once questioned her constant use of eyeliner, longing to see her “true” self. Little did he know that behind every stroke lay a rich tapestry of history, heritage, and personal identity. As Zahra eloquently puts it, “this is who I am.”

So, my fashion darlings, the next time you pick up that eyeliner wand, remember the stories it carries, the rebellions it symbolizes, and the cultures it unites. Embrace the power within those artful strokes and let your eyes speak volumes. Eyeliner isn’t just makeup; it’s a tangible connection to our past, a celebration of our present, and a beacon of hope for the future.

Now go forth, my fellow fashion enthusiasts, and may your eyeliner wings always be fierce and fabulous!

Enjoyed this journey through the world of eyeliner? Share your favorite eyeliner stories, tips, or experiences in the comments below! Let’s keep the conversation flowing, one captivating stroke at a time.