Ladies on the banks of the Ugab
As you leave Damaraland in Namibia on the way towards the Kaokoveld you inevitably cross over the Ugab River. This river is better known for the Desert Elephants that use this dry river bed as a highway. Tourists stop on the bridge in hope of catching a glimpse of these elusive creatures. More often than not they leave disappointed. The local Herero ladies have seen their niche, they have noticed that stopping tourists are not only inquisitive of the Ele's, they want to meet the locals as well. This is why the Herero women spend their days by the road side.
The Herero are one of Namibia's most recognisable people after the Himba. Their herringbone hats and bright colourful dresses attract a lot of interest. The women brighten the landscape and are always smiling and waving to passing tourists. In the past these tourists would fly past but with the construction of a few rickety shelters the women ply their trade of sewing and selling small dolls and pillow cases to the passing traffic.
The women use age old singer sewing machines in front of the store to construct miniature dolls. Each doll is complete with a Herringbone hat. These hats are said to represent the herero's prized cattle. The flowing layers of their dresses are a relic of the 19th century and the early German settlers who first colonised the area. The Herero women took to the dresses from the Germans as the many layers helped cool the ladies as warmer air was repelled and the cooler air was trapped in the dresses many layers. Each doll comes dressed appropriately.
The women are only happy to pose for a photo, usually the suggestion of a fee comes from the ladies but at the news of my return a week later with large printed copies of the images I was inundated with willing free models. All I had to do was set up my mobile studio and get to work! As the ladies lined up I spoke to them in my broken Otjiherero, I asked their names and a bit of their lives. The majority of their replies came in perfect English and delivered with a beaming smile. The Herero women are beautiful people and these are the portraits that followed.
Each image was printed at A4 and I placed the women's names at the base of each image before the prints were laminated for safe keeping. The women knew the date I would be arriving so as soon as the large overland truck that I was using whilst leading one of my Namibian Photographic Experiences pulled to a stop, and my face appeared we were swamped. The clients had no idea but they were all afforded beaming smiles and offers of photos. These ladies see a lot of tourists but few see the resulting images. In May I will return once again with a bundle of images from that stop.
If you would like to join me in May 2016 to photograph the beautiful people and amazing Landscapes of Namibia, how about joining me on my Namibian Photographic Experience. For more details please see: www.benmcraephotography.com
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