Herero Women

I discovered Herero women in Pinterest thanks to the amazing photgraphic work made by Jim Naughten in 2012.


An amazing work featured globally by several media.

For someone like me who loves patchwork and is so interested in women´s heritage and identity, you can imagine how impressed I was, and am still, by the strength and power these dresses and their models communicate.

Today, Refinery 29 shared an amazing short video clip Herero´s Women Dresses and the struggle they confront to make the genocide (90% of the community killed) committed againts this people around 100 years ago. The media was written by Annie Georgia Greenberg with Connie Wang and published on 19 February 2018.

Indeed, Herero dresses, inspired by Victorian dresses and patterns, are a symbol of this fight against German colonialism.

Keeping alive the dresses they were forced to wear, these dresses are more than a cultural tradition, a symbol of resilience (Connie Wang).

If you wish to know more, read Hildi Hendrickson´s paper (1994) The ‘Long’ Dress and the Construction Of Herero Identities in Southern Africa

Hendrickson, Hildi. (1994). The ‘Long’ Dress and the Construction Of Herero Identities in Southern Africa. African Studies. 53. 25-54. 10.1080/00020189408707800.

This paper investigates the uses and meanings of the ‘long’ dress among Ovaherero in Namibia and Botswana. Long dress design, construction, and historical development are detailed, and the role of other Africans in the nineteenth‐century adoption of the long dress is highlighted. The dress is found to mark women’s transition to marriage and motherhood and eloquently to symbolise the responsibilities of adulthood and women’s acquiescence to them. While physically constraining, and laborious to construct and maintain, the dress celebrates women as engenderers of highly‐valued, immutable social relationships. In it, women represent Herero society, ‘traditionalism’, and history within a wider, plural socio‐political world.

Amazingly, inheritance in Herero of Namibia and Botswana s passed through the mother’s clan, while residence, religion, and authority are taken from the father’s line (Source).

To know more about genocides, you can always read recently published book: Women and Genocide: Survivors, Victims, Perpetrators by Elissa Bemporad & Joyce Warren 

Margaret & the art of Ndebele women

When a woman meets a group of women, all of them creative, only good things can result from this experience.

It´s the case of the photographer Margaret Courtney-Clarke and her photo documentary about the art of Ndebele women.

Based in West Africa, these women use vernacular art to enhance traditional architecture by painting them by hand using linear elements and “traditional design concepts borrowed from their ancestors“.

Captura de pantalla 2018-05-23 a las 7.30.58

For Margaret Courtney-Clarke, the objective of African Canva work is:

My objective in this work is to document an extraordinary art form – vernacular art and architecture in West Africa – that is not transportable and therefore not seen in museums around the world. It is an attempt to capture the unseen Africa, a glimpse into the homes and into the spirit of very proud and dignified peoples. In much the same way as I photographed the art of Ndebele women, I have drawn on my personal affinity for the art itself, for methods, design and form, rather than the socio-anthropological or political realities of a people or continent in dilemma. These images portray a unique tradition of Africa, a celebration of an indigenous rural culture in which the women are the artists and the home her canvas. Margaret Courtney-Clarke, 1990

Watch the pictures here.