Book Review: Conflict and Costume

During World War I, a small group of native people known as the Herero suffered greatly at the hands of the Germans, losing ninety percent of their population. Living in the hot, brutally stark country known as Namibia, the Herero set about rebuilding their cultural heritage by adopting a blend of military and European style of dress. The Herero ceremonial military is divided into three sections that are easily identifiable by color, either red, green or white embellishments such as homemade cardboard hats, sashes and wristbands. These groupings provided an important sense of identity and while the mixed array of military gear is usually reserved for special occasions, the daily wear clearly reflects European influence. The women are justifiably proud of their elaborate long patchwork dresses, frequently using up to thirty yards of fabric and no woman would dream of going out without donning the traditional cap meant to represent cattle horns. Despite the heat, the men have adapted full suits complete with top hats.

This collection set against the Namibia landscape shows the Herero and their costumes in a series of color photos that celebrates not only a way of dress but more importantly, the survival of a culture and sense of identity. Minimal text provides an overview of the Herero people and their history which place the costumes in context in this visual journey to Namibia.

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