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Travel Diary

Namibia – Himba, Part Three

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©Kara Rosenlund

Three of three, here we go, the last instalment of the Himba of Namibia.

The Himba use the cone shells hung on strands of traded ostrich shell beads to show fertility and marriage. The ostrich eggs are collected by another tribe called the Sand People, or Bushmen, and are traded with the northern tribe, along the border of Namibia and Angola.

How they make the beads is by smashing an ostrich egg into tiny pieces, about the size of your pinkie fingernail. Each piece is then shaped with a rock and ground smooth and softly curved, so it resembles a small flat disk bead… all pretty much exactly the same….. such a patient and long job, it can take up to a week to make the beads and thread a single necklace. Each tribes’ traditional artistry and material is widely recognised within all the different tribes.

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Skin the texture of leather…

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Layers of calfskins for skirts, then embellished with goat hides…. nothing goes to waste….

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I particularly connected with this woman, we were both very curious of each other. She was the one who thought I needed to hurry up and have children, so I could also have necklaces around my neck, see previous post.

I think she might have seven children, maybe even some grandchildren. Everything is sentimental in Himba culture and has such a powerful meaning, I love that so much. Literally like wearing your heart on your sleeve.

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This is the colour of the Himba, everything is this fertile rich colour, juxtaposed against the bleached and faded Namibian landscape… their skin is this colour, their outfits this colour, their cattle this colour and their huts this colour…. the colour of the blood of life…

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These beautiful bangles are made from polypipe, I would assume they were once made from cow horns….

I have no idea how or where they get the pipe from, as there are no pipes in their camp – its very primitive, with no plumbing or running water… though this is the main material they use to make their bangles…. etched with designs of graphic patterns and smudged with the colour of the ochre….

The Himba woman I had the connection with gave me some of her own bangles, straight off her wrist, and placed them onto mine. The act of touch is so powerful... these bangles have become my most precious objects, which I wear each day, while thinking of her.

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Calf leather skirt and traditional adornments everywhere… The ankles are the most private part of a woman’s body, which are covered with bracelets, beads and leather…

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The Namibian landscape on dusk.Rosenlund0054Rosenlund0055Rosenlund0056

Collected wood is entwined to make a fence, to keep the cattle in and whatever other African animals out…Rosenlund0045

 The cone shells really are magnificent against the brown and red hued female bodies, I understand why they are considered so special. The Chinese have bought a lot of land in Namibia and have put fences up which go on for kilometres, preventing the Himba to be as nomadic with their cattle as what they are accustom to. This also means trade routes have broken down and they are unable to trade with other tribes who are near the ocean, making these harder to find…

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 I sat in the sand with this Himba elder…. she thought I was a little unusual, as even the Himba don’t sit in the sand, they sit on rocks or on animal hides, they don’t like the sand too much….she would laugh at me and we would natter away, waving our hands to communicate … she wanted to see the back of the camera, so I would show her, she was surprised how old she looked….she thinks she is about 60 years old, maybe….I told her I thought she was beautiful…

This was the exterior of her hut, with an old tarp covering one side of it… by the end of our time together she told our tracker that she wants me to come back again,  she wants me to stay with the tribe for many many days and nights, so I can see the fire…. Himba’s worship fire… she also asked me to bring my best women friends with me. At the time I thought that was unusual, though since leaving I now have come to realise that trusted tribeswomen friendships and bonds are crucial in life, for women all over.

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After seeing the back of my camera and with the help of our tracker Nestor, he translated a conversation between the the two of us. This Himba elder asked me to share my pictures of her tribe with the world… to show the world her tribe, and I promised I would… quite the statement, Himba’s don’t do subtle…. The Himba don’t want to be forgotten and they know things are changing in the world….  even in their remote lives they can feel the change… they are fierce and proud, and there is no greater insult than to not be seen and eventually forgotten.

Thank you so much for your comments of support. It has been so special being able to share this journey with you. I travel so much, and it can be a lonely existence, so knowing your ‘friends’ are out there, encouraging you and pushing you and stretching you to go to even greater lengths makes it all the more meaningful. Thank you. For those of you who have asked, I have made some of  my favourite images in the print shop. available so you can remember this journey. I have these women on my walls and they act as a gently reminder, daily, to maybe just go a little slower and to keep things real.

K x

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16 Comments to “Namibia – Himba, Part Three”

  1. These women are so inspiring and beautiful! I would love to be in your posse and visit them and soak up as much of their courage and ruggedness as possible. What a gift, Kara!

  2. Magnificent in every way! Your generous spirit Kara, sharing this precious part of our world in words & images…
    I laughed both times reading about her determination for you to hurry up & have babies! I like the idea of you taking girlfriends with you next time!! x

  3. I hadn’t thought about it until now but with no mirrors, their reflection is the reflection of themselves in their tribe. A fascinating way to view yourself, truly, through the eyes of others only. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Truly captivating Kara!!! Your images are with me and have me thinking of this fascinating tribe long after I have clicked off your website. Such a special journey you have begun… xx

  5. Such an amazing adventure. Our world is changing and sadly not always for the better of mankind. I hope the Himba stay the way they are, for as long as possible.

  6. thank you for going there. thank you for sharing these images, thank you for sharing THEIR story. thank you for sharing YOUR story…I didn’t want these three chapters to end…….

  7. Loved reading about these strong beautiful women, Kara I can’t get enough of your work. How lucky you were to be able to experience this way of life with these truly amazing women. Well done, I look forward to more

  8. Just wondering, why would the Chinese buy land there ?
    Beautiful blog, and thank you for sharing the wonders of other co inhabitants of this earth.
    Love the photographs.

  9. I had to come back again… your words and beautiful images have taken me with you. What an incredible experience you have had… I think this would be the experience of a lifetime and such a privilege to meet with these incredible women. And the importance of sharing with women friends truly resonates with me. Namibia is now firmly on my wish list of dream destinations. Thank you for taking me along with you. xx

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