The Himba Tribe is a unique and fascinating group of people. They are very gracious and very hospitable. They allowed strangers into their home and offered them warmth, friendship and connection. I had a rare opportunity to experience their hospitality and participate in their day.
As the first rays of morning light appeared through the cracks of the hut, everyone ushered themselves out to begin their day. Some of the older children were headed toward the live stock to remove them from the thicket invested branches of the corral. Ever so slowly, each goat was hoisted over the top of the branches and sent ushered on to the pasture to graze.
For the mothers, they continued to care for their young and fed them from their breast. Once sated, the young were placed by their sides as the women began their grooming process. The ochre was ground up on a flat stone and mixed with butterfat. It is then applied to the skin for cleansing purposes because of the regions water scarcity and to protect their skin from the harsh Namibian sun. The mixture is often perfumed with an aromatic resin from the omuzumba shrub. This is creates the distinctive orange or red-tinged characteristic to their skin. The otijize paste is a high desirable cosmetic that symbolizes the earths rich red color and blood, which is the essence of life.
The morning ritual continued with the application of the ashes from the previous nights fire to the metal that adorns their body. The rest of their accessories are then applied, including the Erembe. This is a very ornate headpiece sculptured from sheepskin with multiple strands of braided hear and is coloured and shaped by using otijize paste. Women who have been married for at least a year or those who have had a child will be seen wearing an Erembe on their head.
Hairstyle and jewelry play a significant role to symbolize one's age as well as social status within their community. For young girls, their hair is worn with two braided hair plaits extending down toward their face. For the young boys, they wear one braided hair plait down the back of their head.
The women's duty is to care for the children, gather water from a nearby water source and provide the meals for their family. The women walk to the nearest water source several times a day. The walk can be up to several miles one way depending on the nearest location. The babies are strapped to their backs for the long walks to and from the river. Once the buckets are filled, they are then placed on their heads for the walk back. The weight of each bucket can weigh upwards of 25-28 lbs, depending on the size of the bucket. It is a balancing act they have perfected over many years. This starts in their teens and continues well into adulthood. It seems to be a moment in their day when they are all gathered together and sharing a bit of laughter amongst themselves.