Namibia Skeleton Coast - Leg/Day 4

Himba People

The 'Himba' are the semi-nomadic indigenous people living in Northern Namibia, mainly in the Kunene region. They live of the land raising cattle, cows and goats primarily. The goats are the livestock most suited for the Himba's nomadic movements and are most hardened in enduring dry desert conditions. In their geographical and cultural isolation they maintain a 'pastoralist' lifestyle that, as yet, has remained traditional and essentially unchanged over time. 

The Schoeman family maintain longstanding contact with the Himba in the area of the Kunene bush camp. Through their arrangement we were invited to a Himba settlement with the opportunity to see and buy a variety of their decorated tools, utensils and basic body 'juwellery'. Fascinating to see and photograph were above all the uniquely beautiful natural looks and the varying (hair)dresses of the elder (married) women/mothers, the girls and the young childeren.

Himba people settlement in the hills of the Kunene area. Significant rains fell some time back and have greened the hills, to the benefit of the Himba goats grazing.

Older and younger women and some childeren gathered and awaiting their Schoeman safari group visitors

The Himba People's goats.  Dairy lifestock that is hardened to thrive in such dry (semi)desert conditions.

Older (girl) sister and a little girl standing in the 'door' of their little hut. The double braids hairdress indicates that she is not a mother herself yet.

The Himba girls and women dress their hair in various forms as the 'signatures' of their family/social status and sexual (im)maturity.

Link: Himba women hairdresses explained (Daily Mail)

She sits awaiting visitors interest in buying some of her beeds necklaces and baskets

A young girl carrying her two plaits of braided hair (called 'ozondato') tied back behind the ears.

This young mother has to the right of her a sandstone slab on which she a bit later will demonstrate her use of grinding ochre (iron oxide) and apply it on her skin (photos following).

A varied collection of bracelets and necklaces of different shapes and colours, beautifully matching her ebony skin.

Always a moving scene .........Mother's embrace.

A beaming look of a beautiful Himba woman

She is grinding on the sandstone slab ochre powder from a well-rounded (frequnetly used) rock composed of iron oxides (hematite).

Ground ochre is applied as a skin powder by Himba woman only (man never do). The ochre skin powder is reported being used for both cleansing and beautifying purposes. The cleansing purposes are said to be tied to the Himba social code that woman don't wash/bath with water ( do). A code that is believed to be rooted in the extreme scarcity of (portable) water in their desert environment, and in their social ranking of the males having first (and only) call on water to wash. Woman instead apply ochre and a so-called 'smoke bath' of which the smoke and heat-triggered skin perspiration are the 'washing' components.

She fills the hand palm with ground ochre powder to apply that to her body (arms and chest).

A cheerful demonstration of (upper body) ochre application

A married Himba woman and mother. Her hairdress includes the 'married-signature' crown-like head dress made of animal/goat skin (called "erembe"). Just on this image I noted what looks like extensions to two of her upper front teeth. Unclear what these may be and signify.

Himba woman are not just into smoke bathing. The apparently do smoke (pipe) for pleasure too.
Her intricate multiple hair braids are created using a mixture of ground ochre, butter and goat hair.

The oldest participating Himba woman. She reportedly in the past survived a serious croccodile attack on the Kunene river bank, which had her medivaced and hospitalised with Schoeman's assistance.

Smoking (pipe) too

Elderly and (still) pretty.  Beautiful looks of an other (Himba) world

A great priviledge. Being welcome and allowed to take (close-up) pictures

Will she be looking 'Himba-traditional' also/still ........ in 20-30 years time?

The "Mischief Maker"
Himba man and boys are reportedly more loose on traditional Himba-style dress and adopt western style dress elements.

Mother Ochre's young boy

Using Format