London based photographer, Jim Naughten’s exquisite portraits of the Herero of Namibia reveal a material culture deeply in-trenched its German colonial past.

Opulent Victorian style gowns and paramilitary uniforms contrast against the stark setting of one of Earth’s harshest environments. The refreshingly unconventional representation of a people often portrayed as quaint and exotic, documents the way in which the Herero of today express their identity.

The women’s sense of style adopted from the Rhenish missionaries of the 19th century, has since evolved to include “cow horn” head dresses (symbolic of the importance of livestock to the Herero way of life), and fabrics hinting towards wider fashion trends. The perhaps surprising military uniforms serve as a proud reminder of uprising, as from 1904 men would don the uniforms of the colonial administrators that they killed. Men today continue to honour their heritage through wearing such uniforms to festivals, funerals and other formal occasions.

The seemingly contrived poses reveal the charisma and personalities of the subjects themselves & it is a pleasure to see how past and present has been so seamlessly represented. Each photograph is flawless, and you cannot help but experience an emotional reaction to every image.

Jim Naughten’s book, Hereros is due to be published by Merrell in 2013.