Wired has a gorgeous gallery of photos from Conflict and Costume, a new book by Jim Naughten documenting the Herero tribe of Namibia, who fought an early 20th-century action with German colonizers, and wore captured German uniforms as trophies. The women adopted the ankle-length dresses of German missionary women, and adapted them into gorgeous, patchwork garments that are worn with headdresses made to look like cattle-horns.
The Herero women adopted the German missionaries’ Victorian-style floor length gowns, but they eventually incorporated the vivid colors and cow-horn-shaped headdress (to represent the Herero’s respect for cattle) you see today. After a woman is married, she is expected to make most of her dresses, often from the offcuts of other garments. These voluminous, patchwork outfits are considered every-day attire, while dresses made from a single material are reserved for special occasions. In the book’s introduction, Lutz Martin writes: “Rounded to resemble healthy cows, the dresses contain up to 10 metres of cloth, despite summer temperatures reaching 50 degrees celsius.”
To get his portraits, Naughten immersed himself in Herero culture. He and his guide traveled from village to village, asking permission of the elders to photograph. In turn, he would be invited to weddings, funerals and ceremonies where would he set up his equipment and snap shots of passersby against the Namibian landscape. Naughten said he lost track of how many people he photographed (it was a lot), but he does recall that most everyone was excited to show off their garb. “The man in the yellow suit has to be a favorite,” Naughten wrote. “For walking in front of the camera/lighting set up without saying a word, posing so perfectly for one shot, and then walking off smiling.”
Conflict and Costume: The Herero Tribe of Namibia [Amazon]
Photos: The Amazing Costume Culture of Africa’s Herero Tribe [Liz Stinson/Wired]
A decade ago, I published the first Madeline Ashby story to see print, “In Which Joe and Laurie Save Rock n’ Roll,” in Tesseracts 11; four years ago, I reviewed her outstanding debut novel, vN, and then revelled in its sequel a year later: but now, a decade later, Ashby is an overnight success, with a breakout novel about love, labor, shame, sex and Singularity cultists: Company Town.
Next April, Tor Books will publish Walkaway, the first novel I’ve written specifically for adults since 2009; it’s scheduled to be their lead title for the season and they’ve hired the brilliant designer Will Staehle (Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Darker Shade of Magic) for the cover, which Tor has just revealed.
In 1989, Canadian activist, engineer and thinker Ursula Franklin gave a series of extraordinary lectures on the politics of technology design and deployment called “The Real World of Technology.”
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