Even in a continent rich with fantastic traditional garments, the Herero tribe of Namibia stands out. Photographer Jim Naughten first came across and photographed members of the tribe while traveling across Southern Africa 15 years ago. Naughten returned in 2011 with better camera equipment and produced this eye-catching series. Merrell has just published a book of the work, and two shows open in March: at Klompching Gallery in Brooklyn, and Margaret Street Gallery in London.
The origin of the Herero dress is early-20th-century German colonization. The outfits, which at first were forced on the Herero, later became a tradition, a choice, and a source of pride and status as they made the fashion their own. Tribe members wear the German uniforms at various ceremonies, funerals, and festivals as a way of honoring their warrior ancestors.