Thursday, March 22, 2007


Himba live on both sides of the border separating Namibia and Angola. Since the 19th century the Himba of Namibia have moved back and forth across the border in response to drought, war and repression. The Himba, acclaimed as friendly people, are closely related to the Herero and speak the same language. The Himba are herdsmen, breeding mainly cattle and goats, while leading a semi-nomadic life. They migrate with their herds to different waterholes from season to season. The Himba have been referred to as "multi-use strategists." They combine semi-nomadic pastoralism with periodic wage labor and handicrafts, as well as other small-scale rural industries. Like many indigenous peoples in southern Africa, they have a great deal of knowledge of their environment and relatively simple but efficient technology. Their population is small and widely distributed.

Himba Kitchen

Himba Chicken on a casual stroll

Himba hut

Himba storage hut
For the Himba, clothes, hair and jewellery hold a special meaning, and form an important part of tradition and culture. Even newborn babies are adorned with necklaces, while older children are given bracelets crafted from copper and decorated with shells.

Himba woman showing the red ochre they use for beauty. Ochre powder and butter fat are mixed until the mahogany colour is right. The mixture is then applied by the women in the morning and afternoon as a way of refreshing themselves and as a deodorant.
Photo Courtesy by Brian McMorrow

The proud Himba women spend many hours on beauty care and grooming every day. They cream their whole body with a mixture of rancid butterfat and ochre, scented with the aromatic resin of the Omuzumba shrub. The cream lends the body an intense reddish glow, which reflects the Himba ideal of beauty. Married women wear a small headpiece made of soft skin on top of their braided and ochered hair. In addition, they often wear a heavy ornament around their necks that includes a conch shell that hangs between their breasts in the front and a metal studded leather plate that hangs down the center of their back. They also wear heavy metal rings around their ankles, as well as other jewelry made of copper, ostrich shells, or woven reeds.

TRAVEL LOG BY Brian McMorrow, an intrepid traveller, and with whose immense generosity has offered us the opportunity to use photos from his travels, had this to say from his visit to the Himba community living in Namibia:

"The beautiful remote area of Epupa Falls was one of the highlights of my travels in Africa. This photo, I believe, is one of the best I have ever taken."

"The children seemed happy to be taking a break from their chores, which included collecting manure in tin bowls.We were told that the manure is used to repair the small huts the Himba live in.
Our visit was organized by the upscale Epupa Falls camp. In return for allowing us to visit the village and take photographs, the camp gives the village a small box containing things like coffee, tea and sugar."

Himba children collecting manure
Photo Courtesy by Brian McMorrow

Due to the uncontrolled influx of tourists into their homeland, the Himba's lifestyle and culture have become increasingly endangered. Out of ignorance, tourists are introducing many alien concepts to the Himba culture, like giving sweets to the children and alcohol to the men. As a result, it is reported that many Himba have become beggars and alcoholics. There have been numerous demands for better control of Himba tourism and to declare the entire region a conservation area.

Namibia Travel
Government of Namibia
Cultural Survival


luihamu said...

Liz you are the best,your blog is so interesting,i like your blog.
Keep it up Liz.

Dont you see the people of Himba are being exploited?the issue of alcoholic and beibg beggers.

This is what i normally say the African culture.

Rugo said...

What makes it a Himba chicken - the black tail feathers?

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