never judge a book by its cover

Tamara Cornell

Joined May 2009

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We stopped and I bought myself a little ‘Herero lady’ doll which now sits in my living room and home and I don’t think I will ever forget that day. I remember as I got off the truck I spotted the cutest little kid. He ran over to me and we held hands and he was such a happy little thing.

The lady in the frame caught my eye. She had so much character; by far not the most approachable looking lady there but her personality seemed to beam and we exchanged a giggle (about what I still don’t know), but it was a very humbling moment.

The Herero people of Namibia are a pastoral cattle breeding nation. It is believed they migrated from the east African lakes arriving in Namibia about 350 years ago.

The Herero are proud cattle farmers who measure their wealth in cattle, the importance of cattle to these people is evident in the Herero womens’ dresses. The traditional dress is derived from a Victorian woman’s dress, and consists of an enormous crinoline worn over a several petticoats, a horn shaped hat (said to represent the horns of a cow) made from rolled cloth is also worn.

During the 19th century, the Herero came under the influence of German missionaries who took exception to what they considered to be the immodesty of the traditional Herero dress, or lack of dress (it was similar to the what we see with the Himba today). Herero women eventually adopted the style of dress that makes them so distinctive today. The dress itself falls to the ankles and includes long sleeves and a bodice that buttons up close to the neck. Over this, many women also wear a shawl. Although the influence of the missionaries is certainly diminished in modern day Namibia, Herero women are still seen proudly wearing this elaborate costume in rural parts of the country as well as downtown Windhoek, the capital. Despite the sheer volume of material they wore from neck to wrist to ankle, the Herero women never looked the least bit overheated in the soaring heat of the Namib desert.

Artwork Comments

  • Marie Sharp
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  • SandraRos
  • Tamara Cornell
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