The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

The Show-Stopping Fashion of Namibia’s Herero Tribe

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I just love how the boys are imitating the stiffness of the Germans. I also love that they have appropriated this dress and made it their own. The two-pronged hats represent the horns of the Herero’s cows. The women even adopt the loose gait of the cows as they walk.

Jim Naughten
Even in a continent rich with fantastic traditional garments, the Herero tribe of Namibiastands out. Photographer Jim Naughten first came across and photographed members of the tribe while traveling across Southern Africa 15 years ago. Naughten returned in 2011 with better camera equipment and produced this eye-catching series. Merrell has just published a book of the work, and two shows opened in March: at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, and Margaret Street Gallery in London.
The origin of the Herero dress is early-20th-century German colonization. The outfits, which at first were forced on the Herero, later became a tradition, a choice, and a source of pride and status as they made the fashion their own. Tribe members wear the German uniforms at various ceremonies, funerals, and festivals as a way of honoring their warrior ancestors.
Jim Naughten
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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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