AFRICAN TEXTILES 

The portraits in this project pay homage to the Himba women of Namibia, renowned for their sculptural beauty, their decorated hairstyles, and their red ochre daubed skins. They live a life of almost extreme isolation in Namibia’s Kaokoland.

They are a semi-nomadic, pastoral people who breed cattle and goats. The Himba women apply otjize, a paste of butter, fat, red ochre, and the aromatic resin of the omazumba shrub, each morning to their skin and hair. It gives them a distinctive red hue. Worn for beautification,otjize gives protection to their skin from the harsh climate. The rich red of the earth and blood symbolizes life.

African people have a long history of producing intricate textiles. The African fabric dates as far back as 5,000 BC when ancient Egyptians began cultivating flax and weaving it into linen. African textiles are a major form of expression. There is spiritual, cultural, and historical significance in not only the choice of colours, dyes, and type of threads used, but also in the decorative element, the symbols used, and the figural compositions, which are directly related to historical proverbs and important traditional ceremonies. These include festivals, funerals, naming, and marriage ceremonies.

Using Format