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Victorian Gowns in the Namibian Desert

It wasn't meant to be more than a pit stop. In and out of the car, a quick bathroom break and petrol refill, but I was instantly hooked. I am fascinated by places in conflict with modernity. In Gobabis, a city in eastern Namibia, at the edge of the Kalahari desert I found just that. Innocently perusing the snack aisle at the grocery store, I was caught off-guard by visions of women in Victorian gowns. I did a double take to the vegetable department, where two Herero women were picking apples. For them, this was a regular trip to the supermarket, but my curiosity was sparked.

While Gobabis has globalized and is replete with highways, supermarkets, and even (relatively) high speed internet, for over a century the Herero women have fiercely protected their Victorian style.

Images by the brilliant Jim Naughten

Link to Full Gallery Here

Voluminous Victorian style dresses are accessorized with horn shaped headdress and are a fundamental part of their cultural identity. The horns represent cattle, which are integral to Herero culture. The bull horns are often made of rolled up newspaper covered in cloth. The Victorian style of floor length gowns are considered everyday attire, although that may seem hard to believe.

Women adopt the traditional dress upon marriage. The style harkens to the region's tumultuous past, as the dress was originally forced on the women during the German conflict in the early 20th century. The style has now become a symbol of strength and cultural identity.

Edited by Eliana Arian

Wander Wisely,


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