Photographer's Note

Himbas, numbering around 50,000 people, are an ethnic group living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene region, formerly Kaokoland.

They are a nomadic, pastoral people, closely related to the Herero, and speak the same language. While the Herero changed their life-style under the influence of European missionaries, the Himba have managed to maintain much of their traditional lifestyle.

The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with a mixture of butter fat, ochre and herbs to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge and symbolizes earth's rich red color and the blood that symbolizes life, and is consistent with the Himba ideal of beauty. Women braid each other's hair and cover it in their ochre mixture.

Modern clothes are scarce, but generally go to the men when available. Traditionally both men and women go topless and wear skirts or loincloths made of animals skins in various colors. Boys are generally circumcised before puberty, to make them eligible for marriage. Marriages are arranged at a daughter's birth and usually take place when the girl is between about 14 and 17.

The Himba breed cattle and goats. The responsibility of milking cows lies with the women. Women take care of their own and other women’s children. They tend to perform more labor-intensive work than men do, such as carrying water to the village and building homes.

In the 1980s it appeared the Himba way of life was coming to a close. A severe drought killed ninety percent of their cattle and many gave up their herds and became refugees in the town of Opuwo living in slums on international relief.


This picture was taken in the shanty-town established by the Himba in Opuwo. Although tourists were abundant in the town, we noticed that very few visited this refugee camp-looking shanty-town.

Cropped, increased brightness.

PS: A small gift for André (InasiaJones)...

InasiaJones, SnapRJW has marked this note useful

Photo Information
Viewed: 8537
Points: 12
Additional Photos by Erdem Kutukoglu (Suppiluliuma) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 266 W: 105 N: 604] (3931)
View More Pictures