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Africa's Closet

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I am so moved by the beauty of the photos in this pictorial that I don't want to waste any time thinking up something to say, so I will just give you the facts and then give you time to behold the beauty. 
These photos are from the book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester and they document the adornment rituals of the Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa's Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia.  From the May/June 2010 issue of Departures magazine:  "Each morning (and sometimes three or four times a day), in the same way we might rifle through a closet to put on a Prada shoe, they scour their surrounding landscape to create hats from tufts of grass, necklaces from snail shells, a scarf from banana leaves.  The final effect, writes Silvester in this introductory essay, "is a fascinating dimension of mystery...that is almost magical.  For them, [nature] provides an infinite wardrobe - the most amazing accessory shop you can imagine."  For some tribespeople, the process is rooted in the practical (women carry branches on their heads to shield themselves from the sun; ash can function as insect repellent), but the adolescents of the tribes devote considerable time - and talent - to the ritual, bringing it to its most elaborate peak.  Remarkably it all happens in the absence of a mirror "or even a natural equivalent," writes Silverster.  "The silty water is always cloudy in the valley - the only way one can see oneself is through people's reactions.  An image of oneself...can therefore only be constructed through the eyes of others.  And also, to a certain degree, through the lens of the camera."


L.K. Moore on: April 25, 2010 at 6:19 PM said...

Stunningly beautiful.
They are wearing the most abstract of art, and it is just gorgeous.
My dad is Nigerian, and these photos make me wonder if this is where my hippy sense of "wearing nature" comes from.

MBB Founder and Editor Denene Millner on: April 26, 2010 at 6:09 AM said...

My goodness—what a lovely, lovely visual treat on this bright Monday morning. These pictures take my breath away...


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