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Himba

Himba
The Himba are an ancient tribe of tall, slender and statuesque herders. Since the 16th century they have lived in scattered settlements, leading a life that has remained unchanged, surviving war and droughts. The tribal structure helps them live in one of the most extreme environments on earth.
“Don’t start your farming with cattle, start it with people”
Each member belongs to two clans, through the father and the mother. Marriages are arranged with a view to spreading wealth. Looks are vital, it tells everything about one’s place within the group and phase of life. The headman, normally a grandfather, is responsible for the rules of the tribe.
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- Jimmy Nelson

Mysterious Hartmann Valley

December 2011

In rainy years, the Hartmann's valleys become grassy expanses, but
generally their flat topographies are covered by sand broken only by
a few tough grasses, shrubs and the mysterious 'fairy circles'. 


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- Jimmy Nelson

Her name is Peraa Muhenje

December 2011

Though scarcely clad, looks are vital to the Himba. It tells everything about
one’s place within the group and phase of life. The characteristic ‘look’
of the Himba comes from intricate hairstyles, traditional clothing,
personal adornments in the form of jewellery and the use of a mixture of
goat fat, herbs and red ochre. This paste, known as otjize, is not only
rubbed on the skin, but also into hair and on traditional clothing.

There has been much speculation about the origins of this practice,
with some claiming it is to protect their skin from the sun or repel insects.
But the Himba say it is an aesthetic consideration, a sort of traditional
make-up that women apply every morning when they wake.
Men do not use otjize.
Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Day to day in Hartmann Valley

December 2011

The Himba day starts early. Women arise before or at dawn and apply
otjize. They milk the cattle, which are then herded to the grazing areas
by the men. If the grazing pasture is poor, the entire village will move
to a place with lusher grazing land. Young men often set up separate,
temporary villages and move around with the cattle, leaving the
women, children and older men at the main homestead.

Women take care of cooking, gardening, milking cattle, looking after
children, caring for livestock in the kraal and making clothes,
jewellery and otjize. Flour is made from maize and butter is churned.
Wood has to be collected, and water has to be carried from wells.
The children help with the tasks.

Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Namib Rand

December 2011

The Himba have lived in scattered settlements throughout the region
of the Kunene River in north-west Namibia and south-west Angola.
The homes of the Himba are simple cone-shaped structures of saplings
bound together with palm leaves and plastered with mud and dung.
A family may move from one home to another several times a year to
seek grazing pastures for their goats and cattle.

Although constantly jeopardised by development, including proposed
hydroelectric projects, many Himba lead a traditional lifestyle that has
remained unchanged for generations, surviving war and droughts.
Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Beauty in Ombivango Village near Epupa Falls

December 2011

For centuries, necklaces and bracelets have been made of shells, leather
and copper. Married women wear a small crown made of goat skin on
their heads. Girls wear their hair in two braids over their brow.

When reaching puberty, they adopt a hairstyle with a multitude of tiny
braids that have been ‘waxed’ with otjize. Himba boys can be
recognised by a small plaited pony tail that runs from crown to forehead.
Boys that wish to marry sport the same tail, but wear it tied in a bow.
A married man wears his hair in a 'turban'.
Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Uaterereta from Ombivango Village near Epupa Falls

December 2011

Marriages are arranged with a view to spreading wealth.
Once married, the women move to the villages of their husbands where
they adopt the rules of the new clan.
Himba men are not monogamous and may have a number of wives and
children in different homesteads. Women are not monogamous either
and may have a number of partners.
However, courtship and relationships are bound by strict rules and modes
of behaviour.
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The best time to visit Sossusvlei is close to sunrise and sunset; the colours are amazing. 

- Jimmy Nelson

Dead Vlei, Sossusvlei

2011

The sand dunes of Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert are often referred to as
the highest dunes in the world. Various arguments are laid out to support
this claim, but all miss the point, which is that Sossusvlei is surely one of
the most spectacular sights in Namibia. 

'Vlei' is the Afrikaans word for a shallow depression filled with water.
During exceptional rainy seasons, Sossusvlei may fill with water, causing
Namibians to flock there to witness the grand sight, but normally it is
bone dry.
Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Himba family life

2011

The Himba live under a tribal structure based on bilateral descent that
helps them live in one of the most extreme environments on earth.
Every tribe member belongs to two clans: one through the father
(patriclan or oruzo), another through the mother (matriclan or eanda).
The eldest male leads the clan. Sons live in their father’s clan. A son
doesn’t inherit his father’s cattle, but that of his mother’s brother
instead. 

Himba children are cared for by all the members of the family
in the homestead. Between the ages of 10 and 12, the bottom
four incisor teeth of the child are knocked out in a ceremony
that is believed to protect the child from dangerous influences
and ensure the protection of the ancestors.

Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Epupa falls

December 2011

Women take care of cooking, gardening, milking cattle, looking after
children, caring for livestock in the kraal and making clothes,
jewellery and otjize. Flour is made from maize and butter is churned.
Wood has to be collected, and water has to be carried from wells.
The children help with the tasks.
Artprint available soon

Himba believe in omiti, meaning ‘bad medicine’ or ‘witchcraft'

- Jimmy Nelson

Matutjavi Tjavara in Epupa Falls

December 2011

The Himba practice monotheism and ancestor worship. Their god is
Mukuru, creator of everything, but a remote god.

Communication with Mukuru only takes place through the spirits of
the male ancestors. For this reason the ancestral fire, or okuruwo, is
kept burning 24 hours a day. Mukuru created man, woman and cattle
from the same tree, although he does not have unlimited power
and ancestors can also greatly influence worldly events.

One of the duties of the male leader of the family is to maintain
the ancestral fire, where he prays to departed progenitors and
asks for their blessings for his family. Whereas Mukuru has power
over most physical elements of the earth, such as the land, water
and weather, ancestors control more immediate concerns, such as
the health of kin or cattle.
Artprint available soon

- Jimmy Nelson

Daily Life in Omuramba Village

The Himba homestead is a family unit, overseen by the headman who is normally a grandfather and the oldest male in the village. He is responsible for residence, religious aspects of life embodied by the sacred fire and ensuring that the rules of tradition and the specific rules of the clan are 
obeyed. The matrilineal aspect is responsible for movable property and 
economic matters such as handling of money and property. 

The Himba headman’s authority is identified by an erenge bracelet. 
He oversees births, marriages and coming-of-age ceremonies. 
He performs the various ceremonies at the sacred fire,
involving the spirits of the ancestors in the daily life of the village. 
The headman is also responsible for the rules of the tribe.