Namibia is well known to photographers for its beautiful landscapes and wildlife , but what I loved the most was spending time with the Himba people who live in the far north. Their culture and traditional ways of life have remained this way for centuries and my time with them was fascinating.
These indigenous people live in small family villages consisting of circular huts and work shelters that surround their sacred ancestral fire and an enclosure for their sacred livestock.
The Himba women have a very unique beauty. Every morning they cover their bodies with an orangey-red paste called otjize. It is made from butterfat and ochre pigment and scented by the omuzumba shrub.
The way they style their hair and jewelry are indicative of their age and marital status. The women who are married or have had a child wear an ornate headdress made of sheepskin attached to plaits of braided hair covered in otjize paste.
Young girls wear their hair braided towards their face, covering their eyes. Young boys wear one braid going away from the face along the crown of their head. Men who are married cover their braid with a cap.
The men are scarce in the villages because they are herdsmen and hunters and are gone for long periods of time. The women and children do the labor intensive work from collecting water and firewood, planting crops for food, and milking the goats.
Women live together closely and care for each other’s children. It wasn’t unusual to see one woman’s baby on another woman’s breast.
In order to protect and respect the Himba way of life and thank them for allowing us to visit, we brought the gift of a goat. This was cause for celebration and that evening when the goat was roasting the women sang and danced for us. This can be seen in the silhouette photo, below.
I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed my time with the Himba. There are more photos here.