By Eromosele Patrick Eidusi
The Herero people of Namibia are a cattle breeding people. Until they were colonized by the Germans, they prospered in the central grassland areas, where there was ample grazing for their cattle.
The Herero people measure their wealth in Cattle, and the importance of cattle to these people is evident in their traditional fashion staple: The Okorokova.
The Ohorokova is a traditional Herero dress which is a line shaped – with fabric sewn over several petticoats for a wide structured skirt and is accessorized with a cow horn shaped hat. The style of dress was introduced during the German/Herero conflict in the early 20th century, when nearly 80 percent of the Herero population was wiped out.
While the attire was originally forced upon the herero people the genocide, they have reclaimed it as their own where it has become a traditional symbol for them and a thing of pride.
According to James Naughten, WIRED photo-Journalist who travelled to Namibia to study the Herero tribe said:
“If a warrior killed a German Soldier he would take and wear their uniform as a badge of honor and also to take or appropriate their power.
A version of these uniforms is worn by Herero men today at festival and ceremonies, to honor the fallen ancestors and to keep the memories alive”.
The herero women adopted the German missionaries ‘Victorian-style floor length gowns, however, they jazzed it up to suit their style with vivid colours and cow horn shaped headdress.
Today, you won’t see people wearing this dress as everyday attire. It is now mainly worn for weddings and funerals. Each Herero dress and hat is custom-made and typically only worn once, and thus Herero gatherings are as much Fashion shows as they are family get-togethers.
We love that these people have reclaimed their power from colonisers using fashion as the main symbol of that. As the Namibian fashion industry blossoms, the Herero people modernize their traditional attire in order to keep it a part of their local fashion. This effort gives way to a new wave of young Herero designers, models, and activists who work to keep their heritage alive!
‘Herero Women in Patchwork Dresses’ from the series Hereros. Patchwork dresses tend to be working dresses made up from offcuts and left over material. To me they are some of the most interesting, but the ‘Sunday best’ for weddings and funerals, tend to be made from one piece of material #herero #namibia #africancostume #africanfashion #africancolors #jimnaughten #klompchinggallery #headdress #desert
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