Deep Red Earth - Namibia
Updated: May 1, 2019
I’ve had the remarkable opportunity to get to one of the most remote and underdeveloped regions of Africa. The northern region in Namibia, Kunene (Kaokoland), bordering South Angola is a breathtaking desert landscape made almost inaccessible by the surrounding mountains. I flew there and met one of the last traditional tribes of the world called Himba.
Who are the Himba?
The Himba tribe’s history dates back to the early 16th century when they were part of a much larger group called the Herero. They faced a big epidemic which had a significant impact on the tribe’s coherence. The semi-nomadic tribe decided to move south, but a few of them stayed and hung out struggling for survival. Those few mainly roamed the region in search of cattle and crops begging for help and food. That’s how they got their name, Himba (meaning “beggar”).
The women of the Himba tribe all look rather red-ish as you can see on my photos. They make a paste out of red ochre stone by pounding it into tiny little pieces. They mix it with butter and then heat it a little bit before they apply it onto their skin. Only the women use it to create a form of distance between them and the men. It also keeps their skin moist and young. The cream also protects against the scorching sun, keeps their hair in place and prevents body hair from growing to a certain extent. Girls start using the paste once they are considered mature enough to take care of their own hygiene. They also get the leather crown once they enter puberty.
Interesting enough, the Himba culture doesn’t allow women to wash with water, neither their bodies nor their clothes. This rule dates back to the days of great drought when only the men were allowed to use the little water at hand. Today the women still live to this tradition and use smoke to purify their skin. They get under a blanket with a bowl of smouldering charcoal and herbs until the smoke makes their skin perspire.
Vegetarian By Default
Many meat-eaters today use tradition as an excuse for not cutting down on their meat consumption. “We’ve always done it like that, it’s in our nature”, proves to be a poor excuse if you ask the Himba. For hundreds of years, they eat only porridge, every single day, two times a day. Meat is a real exception that’s not even common on weddings. They survived and even flourish! If they can, we can!