NAMIBIA’S exquisite rich diverse culture and geological phenomena is vividly reflected in a people that hold their traditional values with the utmost swollen pride.
From the rich traditions of the northern communities of the Ovahimba, Owambos Kavangos and Caprivians, to the pride that lingers in the cultural values of the Ovaherero, San, Nama/Damaras, Tswanas, Basters and Afrikaners – their passion for traditional attire cannot be ignored.
The Ovahimba, take pride in wearing skirts of varying sizes made from animal skin, especially goatskin, which is softer to fashion and sew, while the Owambos proudly wear outfits made from the brightly coloured ‘odelela’ material. The jewellery for most tribes in Namibia is made from seashells, ‘ondjeva’ as the Owambos would call it, or ostrich eggshells in the case of the San.
Ovaherero women wear long-sleeved Victorian style dresses, often accompanied by seven petticoats underneath, and a headdress that resembles cattle horns, while the men wear a military type khaki uniform during their traditional ceremonies.
If you think that local attire only attracts local attention, you would be wrong as such outfits have wowed audiences and admirers on the world stage, according to fashion pundit Melanie Hartveld Becker.
Melanie explained that Namibian outfits had been recognised and rewarded both locally and internationally.
However, she regretted that due to a continuously limited market, existing setbacks could derail the progress of this rare craft.
“The Namibian fashion including traditional attires receives positive response beyond the borders,” said Melanie.
“The market in Namibia is limited given its population. In addition, it’s been overshadowed by foreign designers who continue to squeeze the already small market.”
Melanie urged local designers and consumers to support initiatives aimed at marketing these products to greater heights, adding that it is essential local designers venture outside the borders to compete on the international stage.
Nowadays, it is obvious that traditional local attire surpasses the boundaries of ethnicity.
This is evident when people who do not belong to a certain community, are seen wearing that community’s attire in order to appreciate and recognise its uniqueness.
To meet the standards of the ever-demanding world of fashion, designers, including Melanie, have opted to fuse local materials with typically Western attire, a move that has been seen in several Miss Namibia Beauty Pageants.
In 2007, Melanie participated in the Eso Fashion Show at the Sandton Civic Gallery, Johannesburg – a forum at which different designers from various parts of Africa convene to exhibit their creations.
This event, which according to BizCommunity.com attracted over 5,000 guests that year, was represented by Melanie among other luminary designers chosen from across Africa including Mustafa Hassanali – Tanzania, Peggy Onyango – Kenya, David Tlale, Palesa Mokubung andMosa Mokuena– South Africa, and Aremu Couture and Mon Ami – Nigeria.
Melanie manages Pambili Association, which aims to educate and empower young designers, producers, students and professionals so that they can become aware of and active in social design issues.
Big Brother memories!
Exhibiting the fact that Namibian couture is appreciated across various ethnic groups, during his tenure at the Big Brother Africa 1, Namibia’s Stefan Ludik, despite being an Afrikaner, entered the house with a doll dressed in a traditional Ovaherero dress – the only one of its kind in the BBA1 house.
By doing this, Stefan demonstrated his passion and recognition for local culture, a notion that cast off any doubts over his loyalty to African culture and earned him admirers both inside and outside the house.