Namibia’s Herero Women

Not my pic

Today there are about 100,000-240,000 Herero people living in Namibia, mostly in the central and eastern parts of the country. In fact, the present-day town of Gobabis, was formerly known as Hereroland. And the Herero language is still taught in Namibian schools and used in the media.

Traditionally, the Herero were a pastoral cattle breeding nation of farmers, who measured their wealth in cattle. But during Namibia’s German colonial era, the Herero were moved off their lands and nearly exterminated. (85% of all Herero were killed during a 4-year period in the early 1900s.)

The heavy hand of colonialism (or cultural exchange – depending on how you see it) can be still seen in the Herero womens’ dress. Adapted from the Victorian era, the women wear a huge crinoline over multiple petticoats. Most distinctive is their horn-shaped hat, which is supposedly symbolic of the horns of a cow.

Every August, Namibia holds a Herero festival, including a parade for their chiefs. During the event, Herero women are said to line the streets in their festive dresses.

I first saw Herero women and their colorful attire while sitting in a grocery store parking lot. Who are these women and WHY are they dressed like this (especially in 90+ degree heat)?!

The few women I spotted saw me admiring their dresses (aka gawking) and courteously stopped for me to take their pictures. I was thrilled and tried to take all the pictures of Herero women I could find (which were actually pretty few).

Anyway, seeing these women in traditional Victorian dress in the middle of the Namibian desert led me to do a little research on their tribe. And I’m glad I did! So cool!

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 31st, 2011 and is filed under Shopping & Fashion.

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