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The Himbas Of Namibia

In the Summer of 2023, I traveled to Namibia with ThatMan Travels and some amazing, beautiful sistas. When I heard about the trip, I had to be honest, I had never heard of Namibia. As I looked at the itinerary, the Himba Village caught my attention. I immediately booked my spot to learn about the Omapaha Himba Village. The Himba people are the last and only nomadic tribe in Namibia.

The Omapaha Himba Village does not accept any Westernized items. The reason is to to preserve the Himba culture and heritage. The cost of the tour covers all the necessities for the Himba village. We were allowed to purchase sweets and fruits for the children.

Arriving at the Himba Village, I was excited and a little nervous. Before coming to the village, it was stressed that visting the Himba Village is not a human zoo or circus. As a photojournalist, I always respect others when it comes to taking photos, especially photos of children. My reason for taking pictures is for educational purposes. The tour guide assured me that I can take as many photos as needed.

We greeted the Chief of the Himba Village, saying "Moro Moro," which means Hello, Hello. He asked us how we were doing; we said, "Nawa," which means "Fine." The Chief also said that we were beautiful people, and we said "Hoku Heppa," which means Thank You.

The Chief is 50 years old, has 22 children and three wives inherited from a former Chief who passed away. The Chief is wearing a large piece of jewelry around his neck, representing he is married. The Chief was sitting under the tree, carving a wooden pillow for the Himba men only. The men have to be alert while sleeping and monitor their cattle. The Himba men would put the wooden pillow below their ear so they could be vigilant while they are sleep. The Chief said he was happy to see us and that we were welcomed to the village.

There were an estimated 6-8 huts. There is a fire pit in front of the huts and inside. Cooking is done outside. Inside, the pit is used to keep warm and a source of light at night. Each Himba woman and her children have their own hut.

The Chief's hut is much bigger and is situated in front of the Sacred Fire, where rituals occur. The Himba women are not allowed in the Chief's hut. The women in the group and I were told that the Chief permitted us to go into his hut, but all the women had to stand on the right side once we entered the hut. I asked the tour guide, Lesley, why the rules for the women. Lesley said that the Chief is the head of the household. He is the one who decides how, when, and why. There is always a clear separation between men and women.

The temperature inside the hut was cool. As I looked around, I saw a small pit that is used to keep warm at night, a few calabash, a wooden pillow, and a few of the Chief's personal items.

The hairstyles for the girls and boys are different. The Himba boy wears braids going towards the back. When they become an adult, it becomes one long braid. The circumcision of the Himba boy before puberty is their rite of passage. The Himba boy is considered a man upon marriage.

Hairstyles for women represent marriage, age, status, fertility, and wealth. This is how they can identify each other. The girls have one or two braids in the front that resemble horns.  Between the ages of 9 and 15, the four bottoms of their teeth are removed from the lower jaw of the Himba girl's mouth with a stick. The removal of the teeth is to identify between the Himba and the Herero, a semi-nomadic tribe.

The Himba girl has a big ring necklace, representing that she is young and has no children. Once she has a child, the ring necklace is removed and replaced with the Ohumba necklace.

When the Himba girl has her first period, she wears a handmade necklace, and her hair changes to a longer style with goat hair extensions towards the front of her face to prevent male attention until she is ready for marriage. She wears an Ekori headdress made of the skin of a goat's head with three leaf-shaped points.

Her hair is moved from her face when she is ready for a suitor. Once a Himba woman is married, until she has a child, she wears a headdress called an Erembe headdress made from cow and goat leather. The Himba girl is considered a woman until she has a child.

Otjize is a mixture of reddish clay, butter, and fat that is a pasty texture that is added to lock the Himba woman's hair with synthetic hair extensions that take several hours.

The Himba women are topless and wear long goat-skinned or lion-cloth skirts that are adorned with copper, iron, and shells. Around their neck, the Himba women wear an Ohumba necklace passed from mother to daughter. The necklace is made from white shells, copper, and wire that hangs between the breasts. The belt is worn around the Himba woman's stomach after giving birth.

The hooks in the back of the skirt are used to carry their child.

The Himba women and girls wear beaded anklets that are used to protect them from venomous bites, and the long brown lines represent the number of children each Himba woman has.

The Himba woman has a reddish skin color. They adorn themselves with Otjize all over their body. It is used to protect them from the sun, keeps the skin clean, prevents hair growth on the body, and is an insect repellent. The Otjize is made by pounding and grinding ochre with a stone. (See video below)

Otjize symbolizes the essence of life, earth, and blood. The Himba women apply Otjize to their hair and skin daily. The women keep the Otjize in a container made of leather and cow horns. The Otjize gives the Himba women a radiant look. The container is like a make-up case. I purchased the container below.

Himba women do not bathe themselves with water. They take daily smoke baths twice a day. The Himba women use hot charcoal and aromatic herbs that gives a perfume scent and purify their body. The Himba women move the smoked scented herbs throughout their body, including under their arms, between their legs, and their hair that cleans and give their body a beautiful scent. (See video below)

The Himba women showed us how they cleaned their clothing and blankets. They use the same ingredients that they bathe witch, hot charcoal, and aromatic herbs. They place a basket over the smoked herbs. Then, they cover the blanket or clothing on top of the basket. The aromatic smoke cleans their clothes and blankets from ticks. (See video below)

Several of the Himba women asked the group some uncomfortable questions. They asked us where our husbands were, whether we had children, and how we had children without a husband. There was only one woman in our group that was married. The Himba woman asked her why her husband wasn't with her. It was interesting listening to the group's response. The gentleman, with the blue shirt, who was also our driver, is from the Himba Village. (See video below)

I walked around the village and saw Himba women and girls making porridge with maize and milk. They eat meat only on special occasions. (See video below)

The Himba women and girls are responsible for caring for the children, cooking, milking goats and cows, making jewelry and clothing, and building huts with branches, mud and cow dung. When I arrived at the village, the Himba men were not there. They had been gone for several days, herding and hunting. The Himba men are responsible for farming and protecting the village. I enjoyed interacting with the children, especially the Himba girls. I saw them herding, milking the goats, and helping care for the little toddlers.

As I walked around the village, it felt unreal that I was here watching the women doing their daily tasks. While basking in the village's richness, I heard a goat screaming. I ran to the circular fence, where I heard the scream and saw a Himba girl helping a goat give birth. This was a fantastic experience to watch. (See video below)

Before leaving, the group purchased many items handmade by the Himba Village.

As I walked back to the Jeep, I didn't want to leave. I would have liked to stay a week to get the experience of waking up and watching the daily lives of the Himbas. I hope to get the opportunity in the future. Until next time........

"You can leave Namibia, but it will never leave you."

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