African Celebs
2 min readSep 15, 2020

One ethnic group that struggled a lot during the colonial period is the Herero inhabiting mainly Namibia. During the Bantu movement, they migrated to today’s Namibia where they lived through herding and agriculture.

The 18 thand 19 thcenturies saw them battling with Nama groups of South Africa and German colonialists. Sadly, most Herero people were wiped out during these times.

Now, as an attribution their ancestors being slaughtered, the surviving women of Herero are dressing in a distinctive style that resembles the traditional costumes.

The question that comes to mind is; what was the chain of events that led to the Herero genocide. When German colonists started settling and invading the land that belonged to Herero people, conflicts started to rise.

The German colony was quickly established as German South West Africa. Soon after this, Herero people started to complain due to the discrimination and the lack of access to resources.

The final straw came with the decision of relocating Herero villagers, which resulted in a large-scale riot and the ultimate massacre of many Herero people.

It was estimated that a total of 65000 people were slaughtered in the ensuing massacre. The ones who survived were either kept in concentration camps of forced to work as slaves.

Interestingly enough, this tragedy created an influenced and fused culture and lifestyle among the people of Herero. For instance, Herero warriors would steal the uniforms of German soldiers they killed. They believed that this would transfer the soldiers’ power into them.

The fashion style of women was affected much more drastically. They adopted long and colorful gowns that were originally worn by German missionaries.

The dresses are generally known as ohorokova. The distinct feature of ohorokova is the horizontal horned headdress called the otjikaiva.

This is a homage paid to the ancestors who herded cows. Other common features of these dresses include high necks, long sleeves, colorful patchwork made of fabric and crinoline-type skirts.

these features, especially the headscarf are a way for the women to hold on to their heritage. Many Herero women refer to these dresses as “the only thing left for them after colonialism took everything”

Among women, the dress is also seen as the transition into womanhood. When puberty begins, the young girls are provided with these dresses and taught how to wear them…

Originally published at on September 15, 2020.



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