Peoples of Namibia - Himba, Herero, Namibia
Herero women are very eye-catching because of their picturesque attire. They wear colourful dresses with crinoline over several petticoats and a horn-shaped hat to match. This traditional outfit comes from colonial times and is based on Victorian women's dresses. The horns on the hat are pieces of rolled cloth and are meant to resemble the horns of a cow.
The Herero were nomadic pastoralists who arrived in present day Namibia in the 16thcentury. Until colonial times they were mainly occupied with herding and grazing cattle and sheep. In the late 19th century the conflicts with the Nama people and German settlers led to Herero uprising, followed by the tragic battle of Waterberg, which in turn resulted in wiping out a bigger part of Herero population (see my Swakopmund cemetery tip).
Today there are about 100 000 Herero people living in Namibia, mostly in the central and eastern parts of the country.
In several places we met Herero women selling little dolls dressed in colourful tribal costumes - a nice souvenir to take home.
Himba are a pastoral people who breed animals such as goats and cattle.
Their skin is reddish-brown because they use a kind of ointment made from butter, red ochre and herbs. They rub it in their skin and hair. They don't use water to wash themselves but take a smoke bath which also helps them avoid insects. Their complicated hairstyles indicate their tribe status. Another hairstyle is used by girls before puberty, another by married women, still another one by a mother. They wear leather jewellery and skirts made of animal skins.
They are a polygamous society with men having several wives. Children are cared for by all community members. At the age of 11-12 they have their front teeth knocked out - apparently for beauty reasons. Some of the Himba children are sent to school. It often happens that getting to know the world outside their village makes them abandon their traditional way of life. I am not to judge if it is good or bad.
The Himba people live scattered in the north of Namibia. You can see them in many towns selling their craft to tourists. But only a visit to a Himba village can give you an insight into their traditional way of life. Yes, they welcome visitors to their home and have some profit from that., but they do not keep their traditions because of tourists but in spite of them.
Before visiting the village ( near Kamanjab) we bought some food like flour or pasta for the hosts. We had been told not to buy any sweets. The gifts were presented to the chief lady and then fairly distributed among the villagers.
This little community consisted of 10 -12 women and lots of children (some of them orphans). Men, apart from our two guides and a teenage boy, were nowhere to be seen. Only at the end of our visit the chief, wearing traditional clothes, appeared. The women were occupied with their chores - churning butter, breastfeeding babies, cooking a meal. They didn't seem shy or disturbed by our presence - it was obvious that they were accustomed to visitors. Some were just interested to see their photos on the screens of our cameras. The children were much more keen on some kind of interaction - they wanted to be hugged, posed for pictures or just followed us.
The Himba live in circular huts made of branches and mud. We were invited into one of them. We sat on the ground and looked around at the few possessions. On the walls hung skirts made from animal skins. The hut resident showed us the Himba 'wash mashine' and other objects of everyday use.
These 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 the different waterholes
from season to season.
For the Himba, clothes, hair and jewellery hold a special meaning and form an
important part of their tradition and culture. Even newborn babies are adorned
with pearl necklaces while older children are given bracelets crafted from copper
and decorated with shells.
The day we visit Himba people was a special day. We did have a meeting to go to a little Himba village. The village was full of women and children. They show us some of their customs.
I did learn much about them, but I didn't liked how they introduce us to the village. I founded it very rude cause I felt we where stolen a bit of their intimacy.
I did had the great luck to have a herero guide. He didn't came with us to the village, and after we did contrast the information with his.
I did learn much of Uanee, special thanks to him.
A visit to a township is a sobering and enlightening experience. With an experienced local guide, we ventured into Katutura and were welcomed with open arms everywhere we went. The people were far friendlier than anywhere else in Namibia and made us feel like honoured visitors. Poverty abounds, sanitation is a major problem, many youngsters are deprived of even a basic education and medical facilites are sadly lacking. Yet they remained optimistic and positive.
Visit the beautiful Himba-people in the northern part of Namibia near the border with Angola. It's better to ask permition before taking pictures, somethimes they will ask you for money of presents. Food is always a good thing to give (sugar, beans etc)
Meeting the Himba people in their hamlets of wood and mud huts.
Himbas are cattle-raisers who still live in a traditional way, especially Himba women.
They wear only a goat-skin skirt and a variety of straps and necklaces. They cover their skin with a mixture of ochre and animal fat to protect their skin and to be more pretty.
Every Himba woman must wear a large copper necklace until her father dies. Only married women wear a little 'hat' on their hair.
More and more Himba men often wear a long skirt (or pants) with a T-shirt and a baseball cap.
A very busy and lively town in the far north west of Namibia. A welcome change to the European towns further south Opuwo is home to both the Herero and Himba people and is a good place to start journies into the Kunune region.
Visit a traditional Himba village.
The Himba are one of the last remaining tribes of truly nomadic people in Africa.