Namibian tribe wears 19th century dress to protest against the Germans who butchered them


By LEON WATSON
PUBLISHED: 12:12 EST, 1 March 2013 | UPDATED: 07:21 EST, 2 March 2013

 

Shot in the vast expanse of the world’s largest desert, these stunning portraits of the Herero tribe of Namibia look like they’re from a bygone age.

But, 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, pictured here by Jim Naughten, 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.

Herero woman in blue dress in cow dance pose.Costume drama: Herero woman in blue dress in cow dance pose, pictured here by Jim Naughten
Traditional dress: Herero women marching in costumeTraditional dress: Herero women marching in the incredible dress of their tribe 

The history of Herero clothing is extraordinary. Rhenish missionaries first introduced Victorian dress, which the tribe gradually accessorised 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.

Germany officially claimed their stake in a South African colony in 1884, calling it German South-West Africa until it was taken over in 1915.

The first German colonists then arrived in 1892, and conflict with the indigenous Herero and Nama people began.

Between 1893 and 1903, the Herero and Nama peoples’ land as well as their cattle were seized by militarily superior German forces who regarded them as subhuman.

Then in 1903, the Herero people learned that they were to be placed in reservations, leaving more room for colonists to own land and prosper.

Herero woman in patchwork dress
Herero woman in pink dress with yellow scarf
 Voluminous: A Herero woman in patchwork dress (left) and another in a spectacular pink dress with yellow scarf

 

Herero cavalry cadetsTwo boys dressed as Herero cavalry cadets, complete with riding hats
Herero cadet in kilt
Herero cadet in cardboard hat

Standing to attention: More Herero cadets, one in a kilt and another wearing a cardboard hat

Herero cavalry marchingMilitary uniform: Herero cavalry pictured marching in line in the desert

Herero soldier in red beret
Herero man in yellow suit
 Looking smart: A soldier in a red beret and a man in yellow suit

 

By 1904, the Herero and Nama began a disasterous rebellion that lasted until 1907. During this time the Germans devised a plan to annihilate the Herero nation.

Experts estimate that around 80,000 Herero lived in German South-West Africa at the beginning of Germany’s colonial rule over the area.

When the revolt was defeated, they numbered around 15,000. In a period of four years, approximately 65,000 Herero people perished.

Those who survived, once freed from concentration camps, were robbed of their lands, segregated from whites and forced to work in slave-like conditions.

Herero woman in orange dress, adopting the traditional cow poseHerero woman in orange dress, adopting the traditional cow pose
Herero woman in yellow dress
Herero woman in patchwork dress

The clothes the Herero choose to wear, both men and women, are a permanent reminder of the great scar gashed in the tribe’s history

 

 

German rule ended in 1915 when the German army was beaten by the South African – but, once liberated, the Herero men began not only dressing as much like their German oppressors.

Herero women also affected the styles and the airs and graces of the Christian missionary ladies who had come among them in the 1890s.

At the 100th anniversary of the massacre, German Minister for Economic Development and Cooperation Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul apologised for the crimes on behalf of all Germans.

But the clothes the Herero choose to wear, both men and women, are a permanent reminder of the great scar gashed in the tribe’s history when they came close to being exterminated.

A group of Fumban men and boys carry some of the culture's traditional objects.A group of Fumban men and boys carry some of the culture’s traditional objects. Anthropologist Dr Lutz Marten said: ‘Wearing the enemy’s uniform will diminish their power and transfer some of their strength to the new wearer’
 
Emperor Wilhelm II can be seen in 1989, in Germany, dismissing the replacing forces for the protection forces for German South-West AfricaEmperor Wilhelm II can be seen in 1989, in Germany, dismissing the replacing forces for the protection forces for German South-West Africa

 

Anthropologist Dr Lutz Marten said: ‘Wearing the enemy’s uniform will diminish their power and transfer some of their strength to the new wearer.

‘This is in part assimilation to European culture, and also in part appropriation, a coming-to-terms with, and overcoming of history and the colonial experience,’ he said.

Speaking about the clothes Herero women wear, he said: ‘A correctly worn long dress induces in the wearer a slow and majestic gait.’

Today, there are around 250,000 Herero peoples in south-west Africa and the tribe is thriving.

Conflict and Costume: the Herero Tribe of Namibia by Jim Naughten, with accompanying text by Dr Lutz Marten is published by Merrell.

An exhibition of Naughten’s portraits of the Herero tribe will be held at the Margaret Street Gallery, London W1, from 5 March to 13 April.

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2286624/The-Namibian-women-STILL-dress-like-colonists-Tribe-clings-19th-century-dress-protest-Germans-butchered-them.html#ixzz2MQGqzSmQ 


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