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Natural Fashion

Tribal Decoration from Africa

Hans Silvester

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A priceless record of a unique and increasingly fragile way of life, one threatened by conflict, climate change and tourism


The lower valley of the Omo, at the borders of Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan, remains one of the wildest places in Africa. Over the course of numerous voyages to this forgotten land, Hans Silvester became fascinated by the beauty of the Surma and Mursi tribes, who share a taste for body painting and extravagant decorations borrowed from nature.

In this region of East Africa, the rivers that run through the dry savannahs are home to abundant flowers, papyrus and wild fruit trees, and this luxuriance becomes an invitation to creativity and spectacle. Within hand’s reach, a multitude of plants inspire fanciful and ephemeral self-decoration, and the Omo tribes react spontaneously: a leaf, root, seed pod or flower is quickly transformed into an accessory.

People create caps from tufts of grass or they ornament themselves with banana leaves or a stem laden with flowers. These decorations are embellished with butterfly wings, buffalo horns, boar’s teeth, colourful feathers and the like, and are further enhanced by body painting with pigments made from powdered stone, plants, berries and river mud.

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'As a celebration of themselves and of their stunning environment, this is truly an African fashion parade like no other'
Daily Mail

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 28.5 x 24.5 cm

Extent: 168 pp

Illustrations: 160

Publication date: 9 February 2009

ISBN: 9780500288054

Contents List

Introduction: Art and the Body, by Hans Silvester • The Photographs • Endmatter

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