Himba Tribe - People of the Kaokoland: Namibia & Angola

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Traditional Himba family

 Himba are known for their natural beauty and traditional dress









Himba tribe of Namibia and southern Angola

The Himba people share a common ethnic origin with the Herero tribe, having split from the main Herero group on the Namibia / Botswana border, and moved west to present-day Kaokoland in search of available land. Kaokoland is 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 and the grass condition, they move with their herds to different watering and grazing places. 

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 pearl 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 rancid 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: The ancient tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralist occupied Kunene region of the country. The Himba (who are relatives of Herero) are an extraordinary people who have resisted change and preserved their unique cultural heritage. The Himba were impoverished by Nama cattle raiders in the middle of 1800's and then forced to be hunter-gatherers. 

Because of these events they were called the Tjimba, derived form the word meaning aardvark, the animal that digs for its food. Many Himbas fled to Angola where they were called Ova-himba, meaning 'beggars'. They left with their leader called Vita (''war''). After World War 1 he resettled his people in Kaokoland. Since these events the Himba were living their nomadic lives. 

More and more in today's world, they have to reconcile their traditional ways with European values.

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 and the fire is destroyed. His family dance in mourning throughout the night. 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.

Traditional Himba crafts include work in skin and leather (head-dresses, girdles and aprons), jewellery (copper-wire neck-bands and bracelets), musical instruments, wooden neck-rests, basketry and pottery.

The Himba huts 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.

Tourism: There are various Namibia safaris departing from Windhoek, Namibia to visit the Himba tribe  

Himba traditional hutHimba girl looking after the cattle