Conflict and Costume

Revisiting one of my favourite books this Africa Day

jim-naughten-namibia-book

Jim Naughten’s wonderful book Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia, tells the tale of the surviving descendants of the Herero whose 1904-1908 genocide at the hands of German colonialist is considered the first of the 20th century.

Conflict-and-Costume-book

Each image, a portrait of Herero tribe members of Namibia,  reveals a material culture that harkens the region’s tumultuous  past: residents wear Victorian era dresses and paramilitary costume as a direct result and documentation of its early 20th  century German colonization. Namibia’s borders encompass the world’s oldest desert. Bleak lunar landscapes, diamond mines,  German ghost towns, rolling sea fogs, nomadic tribes and a  hostile coastline littered with shipwrecks and whale skeletons comprise the region’s striking and haunting natural features.  Namibia’s geography has witnessed a turbulent and little documented history of human settlement, upheaval and war within a particularly brutal period of European colonization.

Lutz Marten

jim-naughten-namibia-book-17

The history of Herero clothing is extraordinary. Rhenish missionaries first introduced Victorian dress, which the tribe gradually accessorized by adding, for example, cow horn headdresses. Later, during the 1904 war with Namibia’s German colonisers, Herero tribe members claimed the military uniform of dead German soldiers.

herero-cavalrymen

 

Dressed in the costumes that have been appropriated from their colonial past, the men, women and children are taking part in a modern re-enactment of their peoples’ bloody history. The tribe’s now traditional costumes are seen by anthropologists as a fascinating subversion of their former rulers’ fashion, showing how the tribe survived a concerted effort by German colonialists to wipe them from the face of the earth.

hererocostume_2

 

All photos: Jim Naughten

Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia
By Jim Naughten

Introduction by Lutz Marten

Published by  Merrell Publishers (February 19, 2013)

Author: dreamingofmelville

I have watched too many movies for my own good, I have an absolute passion for clothes and an immense hunger for life and wanting to just take it all in. My closet (s) is a mirror of my current self, my former self (selves) my personal movies, my plans for extreme style makeovers and all the characters I did not get to play. I'm trying to tell the story of who I am, who I was and of who I will (most probably) not become one error at a time. These are the mistakes that make up my Closet of Errors. They are all intentional mistakes and part of of various attempts at writing my own story, at creating personas, at playing with possibilities. As most of our mistakes have consequences, so did my errors. I have no more space for all of them and while not having a minimalist, capsule wardrobe approach to life, I need to make space for a whole new set of errors. I hope you find some errors to identify and experiment with so I can share the story and intention behind them and see them transform into new narratives. The name of this blog (and of my shop) is a little twist on Shakespeare's "The Comedy of Errors" because this is also a story of mistaken identities

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