The Himba People

This is the last day before heading into Etosha National Park and it was time for some culture on the way, visiting the last traditional tribe in Namibia.

_17C1278J17_0511 Mustn't laughOur route today took us to Toshari Lodge, not far outside the entrance to Etosha, via the Himba orphanage village of Otjikandero. The Himba still live a largely traditional lifestyle though the village is firmly on the tourist trail. Much of the money they make from this enterprise goes to schooling the children. Our truck vibro-massaged its way in through the entrance gate and pulled up outside the toilets and school. [You are forbidden to laugh unless you are fluent in the Himba language, which I think is Herero.]

Before entering, we were briefed on a handful of basic phrases in the Himba’s language: “moro” = hello, for example, and “okuhepa” = thank you. There’s a line that strangers are forbidden to cross before being invited in. Fortunately, we had a member of the tribe guiding us so we were automatically invited in. Prepare yourself for some nudity, the women do not wear tops. 😉 We wandered in and were almost immediately bombarded by shouts of “moro, moro”. It’s polite to reply.

_17C1322 Himba woman washingSeveral of the Himbas’ traditional customs seem strange to us. Male children, for example, have their lower two front teeth removed at an early age (age 10 or 12, I can’t quite remember). The women never touch water; in other words, they don’t wash as we understand the term. Instead, they use smoke to clean themselves. Francine watched a demonstration of this technique inside one of their huts. My knees grumbled at the crouching position held for too long so I left to play tourist with the children.

_17C1299The Himba women all sport a traditional hairstyle, which we were also shown being applied. Here, we began to see the mixing of the traditional with the more modern western: The bound part of the hair here is natural; the tassel-like pompoms at the ends, which begin to resemble a fur collar to my eyes, are extensions bought from the supermarket.

J17_0533 Himba coralJ17_0520 Himba meat storeHere’s a woman using a large knife to chop up part of a warthog – yum, apparently it tastes most like chicken – which is stored hanging in a tree beside her hut. No refrigeration, then? However, some way to the left, was another hut, its thatched roof supporting a modest string of small solar panels. That hut can just be seen to the back left in the second picture showing the coral for the cattle. Incidentally, the fire in the foreground is the holy fire which, like the eternal flame, shouldn’t ever go out.

_17C1297J17_0542 Taken by the girlThey do like to have their pictures taken, especially the children, and then they like to see themselves on the back of your camera. They are clearly quite familiar with this aspect of modern technology; Francine took a picture of two young girls, showed them, and one of them began trying to expand her image by dragging two fingers apart across the screen, as if it were a phone or a tablet. Canon screens don’t work like that. 😉 As I was crouching (briefly), one little girl squirmed in between me and my camera; I adjusted the settings and zoom, just lining up by guesswork, so she could take a picture herself. [Right] Who said I don’t like children?

J17_0534 Young Himba womanJ17_0531 Himba mumJ17_0538 Himba children

After the obligatory browsing and purchasing of their local crafts, it was time to leave. You could make your cynical self imagine the Himbas saying, “right, the grockels have gone, now let’s pack up and go back to our real homes”. No, not really, it is genuine.

We hit Outjo and called in to a bakkery (that’s the way they spelled it) for lunch at Outjo. While we were having lunch our truck disappeared for a while – hmm?-  I assumed, maybe, to fill up again. Never miss an opportunity to top up the tank in Namibia.

The truck returned and we continued to our accommodation, Toshari Lodge, arriving at 2:20 PM. This looked chic. Compared to what we’d been in thus far, it was absolute luxury. Our room was spacious with two huge beds, though the aircon dripped when turned up full. I’d have top do something about that to sleep. There were nets all around the beds that looked as though they were intended to be mosquito protection, yet there was a louvered window above the beds with no screen. Maybe it was just for decoration, then.

_17C1346 Uid dragonflyWith time to spare and well planted grounds around the cottage rooms, we had plenty of time for a critter hunt before dinner. Francine went down to where we’d spotted some of those constantly cruising dragonflies, switched to manual and managed to snag a couple of shots, all be they distant.  They should be enough for an id, though. Well done Francine. My suspicions strengthened but it remains unidentified.

Dinner at Toshari Lodge was a buffet, including delights such as Kudu, Springbok and Eland in the form of sausages. I went for a slice of Springbok with some Eland sausages, the latter being delicious. There were vegetables but I’m darned if I can remember them.

We turned down the aircon, the dripping ceased and we retired.


Posted in 2017 Namibia
One comment on “The Himba People
  1. Steve says:

    Some African tribes in Kenya also knocked out the front two teeth. I was told back in the 60’s this was for lock jaw (tetanus). You could still eat with a straw through the gap in the front teeth.

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