Namibia is one of the African countries that is located in the southern part of the African continent and after a long fight for independence, they finally achieved this in the year 1990 and ever since then it has been known to be one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. With all the tourist attractions that are located within the country there is a group of people known as the Himba and these need to be visited by anyone who plans to go to Namibia for a safari because your trip will be extremely incomplete if you do not get to experience the unique culture of the Himba people.
The Himba are a group of people who live in the North western part of Namibia and are largely known for their hospitality for all the visitors who come around to visit and learn about their unique culture. A fair description of the Himba is that they are small and tall people who can be seen wearing different hairstyles and this is one way that you can guess their age bracket. They have a close connection to the Herero people and most of them have red skin but this is due to the fact that they apply red ochre on their bodies and this is used to show reference to the earth and the blood that flows within everyone’s veins as a sign of life.
The Himba have been faced with a lot of troubles throughout their stay in the country and most of these were experienced during the war from the German colonialists that is the independence war and the climate from where they stay is a bit harsh and they have experienced numerous bouts of drought in the area. They are also believed to have almost become extinct in the 80’s but they have survived all this to become a prominent group of people in Namibia.
Cultural traditions of the Himba
It might come as a surprise but the Himba have some of the weirdest traditions and these are followed by everyone who lives in the area. These unique traditions separate them from the rest of the tribes in Namibia and some that are practiced include the following:
The Himba people are polygamous people and this is their tradition from way back. When the girls hit puberty, their fathers give them away to the men that they have chosen for them and the girls clearly have no say in whoever they get married to and when they bring other girls for their husbands, they are not to complain in any way as it is considered to be a privilege.
They have a no bathing policy that is bathing is forbidden that is instead of bathing, they apply flavored gum on their skin and also take a smoke bath and after that they apply the red ochre on their bodies after the smoke birth. The women then apply butter on their bodies and this is used to protect their skin from the harsh weather conditions experienced in the area. Some people believe that they do not actually bathe with water due to the scarcity of water where they live and the harsh weather conditions also make it hard for them to actually bathe. The way the smoke bathing is done is they put different types of leaves on fire and wit for the smoke to come up and when the smoke starts coming up, they use a blanket to trap the smoke that they use to cover themselves.
When you are a visitor in the Himba community, you are offered free sex from the women with the consent of their husbands and this is done so that there is no jealousy among the people and this is believed to create good relationships. The husband leaves his bedroom for the visitor and the wife to enjoy themselves as he gets himself another room to give them all the privacy that they need.
The Himba are semi-nomads and are known hunters as well. Even though the women have to do most of the household work like feeding the animals, their children and their husbands while the men go out for hunting, the women have zero or no say when it comes to decision making in the family.
One of the few ways that they have been able to conserve their culture and practices is by resisting and infiltration from other tribes and the western world. And even though they sometimes communicate with other tribes, they do not allow any changes to come to their culture and this is what has made them unique and resistant from change making them a unique set of people to visit although you should be aware that they hate being prodded and researched about by foreigners.
The economy of the Himba
Most Himba people believe that the only way one can be considered rich is by the large number of liv stock that they have. It does not really matter how much money you have but as long as you have a limited number of livestock, you will always be considered poor and that is most of the Himba people strive so hard to have a lot of cattle especially when it comes to bride price during marriage.
They are also farmers although this has come of recent as they rear animals more than farming and this is due to the fact that they live in a semi desert area which does not permit them to go into agriculture much as they want to and the women normally go out to dig while the men engage in hunting more.
Religious views of the Himba
The Himba people believe in a divine being known as Mukuru but since Mukuru is always busy, they worship their ancestors instead. They always light a fire around their homes and livestock and the fire is used as a form of protection and a way of communicating with Mukuru. The fire has a fire keeper and these come from the different families and besides getting closer to Mukuru through the fire, it is also used to communicate with their ancestors but after lighting the fire for seven days.
Dress code of the Himba people
These still adorn themselves with jewelry that is locally made and it does not matter whether you are male or female. The jewelry that is majorly put on by the Himba people is made from materials like grass, clothes, copper, beads and egg shells that are got from ostrich legs and these are used to make necklaces, bracelets, anklets and waist beads. The white beads that are put on by many around their necks are known as the Ohumba and these are used as beauty enhancers. Since the jewelry has always been part of their traditions since time immemorial, they still put them on because their ancestors used to and this helps them keep to their traditions. The older women can be seen putting on heavy beads around their legs and this is to help them to avoid snake bites while they move around their village.
The Himba women and men also have different hair styles and these are what are used to differentiate between the ages of the different women. Some of the hairstyles that are won by the Himba include the Ombwiya head dress, the Ozondato that is worn by men who are ready for marriage, the Ondato is worn by young boys and many more other hair styles.
When the girls are young, they have two braids in their hair and this is locally known as Ozondato. When they reach puberty, the hair style changes and it is worn long by the girls with different designs all over it and the decision of what design of hair is to be worn by the girls normally comes from patrilineal group. When the girls undergo the traditional ceremony of ekori before they get married, they are given a head gear that is made from goats skin and is all decorated with beads and when she gives birth and has been married for almost a year, the head gear is kept for only ceremonial purposes and is replaced with one that has braids hanging from it and made from the skin got from a goats head. Although some girls keep their hair, there is a group of Himba girls that completely cut off their hair and only remain with a patch on the head and all the hair that is cut off is woven into braids that are hung from the head towards the face.
All in all, a trip to the Himba tribe in the North western part of Namibia will be worth it as they are known to be one of the most welcoming tribes in Africa but note that they have a huge problem with anyone who wants to come into their villages trying to bring a change to their culture.