Friday, January 3, 2014

The Himba People of Namibia

A couple days ago when I was discussing the Herero and Nama people I mentioned that Namibia has a number of different tribes.  The Himba people are another significant tribe in Namibia and I was fortunate enough to visit one of their villages during my trip.

Technically, the Himba are closely related to the Herero, but if you compare the clothing the two wear, they look very different.  Case in point: the Herero lady wears a giant dress with lots of petticoats which was introduced by the German missionaries.  The hat she wears is supposed to represent cow’s horns because cattle are so valuable in their society:

By contrast, the Himba seem to wear very few clothes.  As you can see here, both men and women go topless and wear a loincloth made out of animal skins.  However, the women must cover their ankles because that is the body part which should not be exposed to others. Since they wear very little clothing, they cover themselves head to toe with a mixture of butter fat and ochre to keep their skin soft and protect it from the sun.  As a result they tend to have a permanent reddish tint to their skin. All the Himba women braid their hair and cover it with the ochre as well:

Here is a shot of the Himba village itself.  Each woman lives in her own hut with her children.  Men have their own huts as well, but seldom need them as they generally decide which lady they would like to spend the night with.  Polygamy is the norm, but in many cases, Himba don’t even get married, they just have children with various partners.

And then here are some of the Himba children playing.  These both boys and girls who have the same hairstyle until they become older and get married:

I’m not sure how well you can see it, but I was really impressed by this kid who had fashioned a vehicle of some sort out of wires and soda cans and was pushing it around the village.  Apparently, they aren’t completely isolated out in the village:

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