What makes Africa so special is partly her wildlife, partly her scenery and most definitely her people! Especially when they are still so true to their roots and traditions like the Ova Himba tribe in Northern Namibia.
One can either get to see them and spend time with them, learning about their cultural ways through a translator on a skeleton coast safari or there are some wonderful camps on the Caprivi Strip where one can meet the OvaHimba too.
Learn what plants they use to make sun cream for themselves and the different skins they use for different celebratory occasions such as weddings. Hear about life for these people living in the 21st century and the difficulties they face as well as learning about their fascinating traditions and customs.
No safari to Namibia should be without some cultural influence and having access and the possibility to meet and interact with these secluded people living in a land of extreme drought and extreme existence is a sheer delight - they are truly extraordinary.
There are approximately fifty thousand of these indigenous people living in Northern Namibia and Southern Angola. They are semi nomadic and pastoral people and speak Otji Himba.
Their livestock is generally made up of fat tailed sheep and goats that provide milk and meat though it’s the cattle numbers that represent their actual wealth.
As with many African tribes the women and girls do most of the manual work – tending the homes and keeping them bound with clay or earthen plaster, milking the cows, collecting firewood, cooking and looking after the children.
The men herd the cattle and are generally in charge of family and village affairs, although these days, many of the men work far from home and see their families once or twice a year at most.
The village homesteads of the Ova Himba have a centre – The Okuruwo – the central fire, around which circular mud huts and shelters are constructed and a livestock boma to keep the livestock safe.
What makes the Himba woman and girls so noticeable is the decoration in their hair, their colour and clothing - they really are exceptionally striking. The women make incense from pungent herbs and resins which they use as a perfume.
The ladies wear skirts of soft calf skin and leather with metal and corded necklaces. Their hair lies in long braided plaits and is smothered in a paste which is a mixture of butterfat and strong perfumes mixed with ochre dyes and omuzumba shrub resin.
The otjize not only forms a cream and sun barrier but a perfume and insect repellent and is a blood rich red colour which is a sign of beauty to the Himba. Ash is used to clean the hair (water is scarce so other means of cleaning are used). Head decorations indicate status in the community and whether one is married or not and this applies to both sexes and all ages.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
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