Location: Kaokoland, Namibia, Africa.
The Himba people share a common ethnic origin with the Herero tribe, having split from the main Herero group in the Namibia / Botswana border region, and moved north-west to present-day Kaokoland in search of available land.
Kaokoland is an sparsely populated wilderness area, located in the far north-western corner of Namibia. The Himba are a pastoral nomadic people and they totally depend on their herds of cattle and goats.
Depending on the time of year, rains and the grass condition, they move with their herds to different watering and grazing places inside this large wilderness region. In each new grazing location, they would build temporary huts, that are made from a mixture of mud and cow dung, plastered over a wooden frame. Huts are only used for sleeping and are generally very small and barren.
Both Himba men and women are known for the care they take in wearing their traditional attire. Clothes, hairstyle and jewellery are all of particular significance to the Himba, and are part of their tradition and culture. Even newborn babies are adorned with bead necklaces. When the children are a little older, bangles made of beaten copper and shells are added.
The proud Himba women take several hours for beauty care every morning. The entire body is rubbed with a cream, which consists of butterfat and ochre powder. The aromatic resin of the Omuzumba bush is added as well. The cream lends the body an intense reddish shine, which corresponds to the Himba idea of beauty.
Basic History: This still very traditional tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralist have resisted change and preserved their unique cultural heritage. In the mid-1800's, the Himba were impoverished by Nama cattle raiders and then forced to rely on being hunter-gatherers. Only in the 1920's their cattle and goat herds has really recovered, due to an political change in Namibia, from an German colony to an mandate territory. Because of the difficult time without any live-stock and had to survive from the land, they were called the Tjimba, derived form the word meaning 'aardvark', the animal that digs for its food. Many Himba fled to Angola, where they were called Ova-himba, meaning 'beggars'.
After the First World War, they returned to Namibia under the leadership of an chief called Vita, to settle in the Kaokoland region of the country. More and more in today's world, they have to reconcile their traditional ways with European ways, and quite often this clash of cultures resulted in the corruption of their traditional values.
Religion: One of most interesting rituals of these people, is that of the ritual fire, the 'Okoruwo'. The fire provides contact between the living and the dead, which is necessary for harmonious living and keeping the ancestors happy. It is kept alive until the death of the headman. When this happens, his hut is destroyed and his "holy fire" is left to slowly burn down to only embers. His family will dance all night in mourning. Before his burial everyone says to him: "Karepo nawa" (keep well). Later a fresh "holy fire" is lit from the embers of the old fire.
Art: Traditional Himba crafts include work in skin and leather (head-dresses, girdles and aprons), jewellery (copper-wire neck-bands and bracelets), wooden neck-rests, basketry and pottery.
Tourism: There are various Namibia safaris departing from Windhoek, to visit the Himba tribe, and tourism has offered an new incentive for the Himba to keep their traditions alive.