11 September 2013

Thoughts on ISP Topic: "From Herero to Nick Cave: Afro Futurism and Colonial Dress as an Aesthetic Statement against Colonial Genocide"

The Herero Tribe in Namibia dress in highly textured garments styled in Victorian colonial silhouettes.  Many western historical texts refer to them as a community or tribe of cattle herders from modern day Namibia. According to these texts, the Herero became introduced to European Victorian dress from the German Rhenish missionaries who entered the community in the late 19th century. A few years after the Germans claimed colonial rule, the Hereros rebelled against the Germans, and the Germans responded with extermination techniques, which, nearly exterminated the entire community. The genocide against the Herero were considered the first genocide of the 20th century, and the Herero tribe of the 20th century dress in colonial Victorian garments made with local garments as a visual obituary to what happened in their community less than a century prior.

This visual obituary of the Herero is similar to the visual narratives that other contemporary disenfranchised groups have created to commemorate past ancestral trauma. “Afro futurism” has been a term used to refer to the artistic movement of African-descended and racialized black artists who have used art as a gateway into creating an entirely new universe. Similar to the Herero Tribe who have used sartorial performance as an act of self affirmation, the Afro futurist artists used their futurist forms of embodied performance to create a new environment, devoid of imperialism, racism and cultural hegemony.

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