A special visit to the Himba

What I experienced on Saturday, August 13, I will never forget. In the morning I had a conversation with Wenten, the manager of the campground where we stayed. When I asked if it was possible to get acquainted with the Himba, he told me that he himself was a Himba and could accompany us to a Himba village. The life story of Wenten is very special. He lived in a Himba village and herded the goats every day. When he was about 14 years old, he fled from the village to the “civilized” world. Because Himba are not registered and do not know when they were born, atOpuwa (where Wenten landed) an estimate of his age was made. He went to school, where missionaries taught. After a few years, he has attended further studies and eventually got a master’s theology. Now he teaches a few days a week in Opuwa and he also, along with his wife, is the owner of the campsite.
He is now 35 years old and loves to talk about his native culture. We conclude to visit the Himba with him. It is an impressive visit. Obviously there are many “cultural villages”, which are commercially exploited but he takes us to a remote village where no tourists frequent. For him, it’s been a few years ago since he was there and he therefore proposes to bring gifts for the population. At gifts I think of all other gifts than the things we eventually bought to the Himba. We take 20 kilos of flour, 5 kg sugar, a couple bottles of oil, tobacco and candies.


When we arrive at the village, we of course have a lot of attention. People do not understand where we come from. They know only their own environment, not knowing aboout Namibia, let alone Netherlands. It’s obviously great that Wenten speaks the language and run through him we all interviews with the inhabitants of this village.


The ‘chief’ of the village welcomes us and says that he feels very honored that we take the trouble to visit his village


He asks us how many days the walk to our country and what direction he must go. When he hears that it rains a lot in the Netherlands, he even wants to come to the Netherlands with his cows and goats. Our story about passports and visas goes beyond his reach. We meet a few women of the chief. The chief has six wives and stays in a different cabin each night. When I ask where he sleeps the seventh day of the week, I am told that he has no free day and therefore has no own cabin.


Wenten tells us more details about their culture. The appearance of the Himba says something about the place in the group and phase of their lives. When they are about thirteen years, both boys and girls are out beaten the four front teeth in the lower jaw with a stick and a rock.


This is a Himba tradition whose origin is unclear. Girls wear their hair in two braids on their foreheads; After the first period they braid their hair in tiny pigtails that are smeared with ocher and goats fat. Married women wear a small crown of goatskin on their heads. Himba women never wash, they smear themselves with a mixture of goats fat, herbs and ocher. The ocher gets women their typical red color.


The mixture protects them from the sun. It strikes me that the skin of women is incredibly good looking, even in older women. We still do something wrong?
Jewelry is also important for the Himba. As can be seen from the jewelry women have one or more children, or they have twins in the family, or someone recently deceased, in short, fantastic stories. Both men and women wear little clothing; The traditional dress is made from the skins of slaughtered animals. Nice to see that they have different bclothes for certain events.


I am deeply impressed by the lives of these people. What really struck me, was the verdict of one of the women. When she heard that we have so much rain in the Netherlands, she said: God is not fair. We have had no rain forĀ 4 years, why did you have so much rain? If you also hear that they have to walk for kilometers to find water, you become very quiet. A bizarre sensation and you wish it was different. The only thing we could do at that time, to share the water from our tank in the car with them. How weird was that … suddenly water came from a faucet in the car. The people were completely outraged: water normally comes out of the ground … now just fall from the sky … I can assure you that really hits you and the more we realize how blessed we are.

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