Sometimes on the blog I like to give a recommendation for an inspirational book and this one, Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia is wonderful. I found the book featured in Selvedge, which is also inspirational. The book, by Jim Naughton, is about a tribe in South West Africa which was colonised by the Germans in the nineteenth century. There was a war in 1904-08 and the Germans withdrew in 1915, but they left behind a weird combination of militarism and Little House on the Prairie chic. So there are young men in uniforms complete with homemade cardboard trappings like this:
But more interestingly for me, women still wearing extraordinary patchwork dresses inspired at least in part by missionary influence under colonial rule:
The cow headdresses show the importance of cattle in the culture and they get much smaller as women get older and less fertile. But the patchwork dresses are quite extraordinary, more so because they are supposed to be long to give the impression that the women are floating. The effect is also heightened by Naughton’s photographs which are shot in the arid desert landscapes. The book is published by Merrell and is an absolute treat. I don’t know how I will use it yet, and I think that some of the Laura Ashley dolls are not unlike the dresses in the photographs purely by accident, but I am sure that I will draw upon this imagery at some point.