Himba Village, Namibia

Himba Village, Namibia

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.

Himba mother holding her child

Child with two hair plaits over face

Woman turning as she laughs

Five Himba women carrying water holders, with one child

Himba woman sitting on roots of tree

Young Himba man standing near tree

Two Himba women with baby

Himba woman grinds grain, children play beside her

Himba women carrying water on their heads

Himba dancers silhouetted by sunset

13 comments

  1. Another fascinating journey. Your photos capture a way of life so foreign to me. I cannot imagine smearing otjize on my body even once and they do it everyday. How do they wash it off.? Is it used as as sunscreen? They have such beautiful skin so I guess it works. What a beautiful people.
    Thank you for sharing your passion with all of us or we would never get a glimpse into the lives of so many indigenous people.

  2. Michele, these photos are magnificent. I can feel the joy and happiness, especially the one where the woman is holding her baby up and smiling at him/her. You are a gifted photographer capturing the essence and dignity of these people and their way of life.

  3. Michele, your photos are magical, and breathtaking. Does National Geographic utilize your work? Thank you for sharing these beautiful people.

  4. Beautiful photos!!! You have such a gift for capturing a LIFE, Sooo different than ours!!!
    Just amazing!!!!! 👍👍👍👍

  5. These are incredible, like always. I am fascinated by how they do their hair. It looks like it would take so long and is like nothing I have ever seen before. And of course, the children are beautiful.

  6. Michele
    As always your art of capturing the human essence in the village people of Himba through your photographers ‘ eye is breath taking.
    You have captured light that illuminates their souls you are truly
    Gifted . BRAVO!!!!!! Please keep on educating the world of people often forgotten and always remembered once we see through your gifted artistry !
    Helenea

  7. These are beautiful Michele! I love the light in the one with the woman and child against the silvery trees and the beautiful smile of the young girl with the green bracelets

  8. Michele, Your work keeps getting better. Awesome ! The way you captured the lighting on several photos make them exceptional. Keep on trekking and sharing.
    Pearl

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