Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Out of Africa...The incredible fashion show inspired by Mother Nature

An amazing fashion show inspired by Mother Nature. I came across this 2008 posting on the Daily Mail online website. The models are said to be of the Surma and Mursi people of the Omo Valley in East Africa, (see here too). The story in the Mail reads:

"With colourful make-up of bright yellows, startling whites and rich earth-reds, flamboyant accessories and extraordinarily elaborate decorations, you'd be forgiven for thinking that these images originated in the fevered mind of some leading fashionista. Yet far from the catwalks of New York, London or Paris, these looks are the sole creation of the Surma and Mursi tribes of East Africa's Omo Valley.

Inspired by the wild trees, exotic flowers and lush vegetation of the area bordering Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, these tribal people have created looks that put the most outlandish creations of Western catwalk couturiers to shame."
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"...a leaf or root is transformed into an accessory..
Instead of a scarf, a necklace of banana leaves is draped around a neck.
In place of a hat a tuft of grass is jauntily positioned.
A garland of flowers, a veil of seed-pods, buffalo horn, a crown of melons, feathers, stems and stalks-
Mother Nature has provided a fully stocked wardrobe.
Like a dressing-up chest brimming over with costumes and make-up (paint created with pigments from powdered stone), the natural environment is the source of this glorious jungle pantomime.."

"Although the origins of this astonishing tradition have been lost over the years - the Surma and Mursi spend much of their time engaged in tribal and guerilla warfare - their homeland is a hotbed of the arms and ivory trades. Fifteen tribes have lived in this region since time immemorial, and many use zebra skins for leggings, snail shells for necklaces and clay to stick their wonderful designs to their heads. As they paint each other's bodies and make bold decisions about their outfits (all without the aid of mirrors) it seems that the only thing that motivates them is the sheer fun of creating their looks and showing them off to other members of the tribe. As a celebration of themselves and of their stunning environment, this is truly an African fashion parade like no other." Marcus Dunk

Pictures by Hans Silvester (Rapho/Camera Press) from the book Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester, published by Thames and Hudson, £19.95

Poetic and rather evocative, but I do not like the word "tribe" and never use it, since I think of it as a word devised by Europe to describe peoples they thought were less 'civilised' than they were. The word carries with is a connotation of primitiveness and applies only in relation to the 'native' peoples of Australia and the Polynesia islands, parts of south Asia, Africa, parts of South and Central America and the indigenous populations of North America.

It angers me to see that many of us in modern times have embraced the word and refer to our various ethnic groups, indigenous societies, indigenous nations, kingdoms and fiefdoms as tribes, without thinking about the implications of the use of the word. The word appears in the Mail's description of the fashion event and I needed to express my view. Please pardon me for digressing. See here too.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very colouful and lovely photos. I once went for a job interview for a job in Africa and during the induction, I used to word tribe and was told not to use the word that rather use local people. I agree with you that the connotations of the word is regresive. I shall endevour to stop using the word.

Lindsay said...

Oh how pretty!!

Leon Koh said...

stuning beautiful pictures

Leon

Anonymous said...

Ooh the pictures are so lovely.... it is high art... I love losing myself in beauty(flowers,gardens,scenery, music, some art)and these pics made my day...
Lily