In 2015 Namibia celebrated its first state wedding as then Namibian President-elect Hage Geingob married Monica Kalondo (now Geingos). While the wedding was Eurowestern in many aspects, it also included many “traditional” elements of the Owambo people. In particular, Geingos’s wedding dress alluded to the contested traditional dress of the Owambo—the oshikutu sheenhulo. This paper explores the ideological and political significance of both dresses in a nationalist context in contemporary Namibia. More specifically, I elucidate the controversy surrounding the oshikutu sheenulo in order to speak to the symbolic implications of First Lady Geingos’s wedding dress. This article demonstrates how the first lady’s dress—in its melding of the traditional and the modern, the ethnic and the national—speaks to the cultural and political tensions inherent in the articulation and performance of national identity in contemporary Namibia. Furthermore, I argue that both the oshikutu sheenhulo and the first lady’s dress evince a distinct Owambo and Namibian visual aesthetic, and that both dresses are examples of Namibian modernity, as they function within the context of national representation and nation building.


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pp. 73-109
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