With skin as red as the earth and traditions that go back as early as the 16th Century, meeting the semi-nomadic tribe of Namibia is an extraordinary experience that will stretch the mind of any traveler.
What does Himba mean?
Ah, I’m so glad you asked.
The word Himba stems from the Otjihimba language; however, the translation is debatable.
Damaraland, Kunene Region
Here's some of the story...
When a bovine epidemic hit Namibia at the end of the 19th Century, the Herero tribe, who depended on cattle for survival, were forced to split up.
Some headed south in search of new lands and those that chose to stay in familiar territories roamed the Kunene region in northern Namibia in search of cattle and crops, asking other tribe members for help.
They became known as the Himba, which was translated as beggar.
Another translation of Himba, is ‘aardvark’, and refers to the same period when the tribe existed without livestock, forcing them to survive from the land; the aardvark is an animal that digs for food.
Today the Himba can be found in remote regions of northern Namibia where they are still practicing age-old traditions in one of the harshest environments on earth.
With that said, westernisation has spilled into their society, and should you find yourself in the city of Windhoek you will be able to meet members of the Himba tribe who have come to the city to sell their goods in the local markets.
Some interesting observations about the Himba
You can easily recognise Himba tribe members by the red orcha cream that the women use to cover their skin, protecting themselves from the extremely hot climate and mosquito bites.
As in most cultures, style is often symbolic, and if you see a Himba woman wearing a decorative headpiece (Erembe) this means she is married, and young boys and girls are identifiable by either one braided plait or two braided plaits styled in front of their face.
The roles of the women and girls range from collecting firewood to making jewellery and handicrafts, a sharpened skill that is reflected in their intricate designs.
The men’s responsibility is attending to the livestock and dealing with matters pertaining to the village.
Walking through a Himba village, you will be struck with the simplicity of their homestead in comparison to the western world.
However what may look like little, offers much.
Meeting different cultures is as transformative as visiting new places.
We always give our guests the option of including a cultural experience in their itinerary as it is offers a unique lens to the destination they are visiting.
(On our Photographic Expedition in Namibia we visit a Himba Village in Damaraland and it is one of the highlights of our trip!)
References: Africa Geographic