Meet the Himba people of Namibia's Kaokoland

Mar 5, 2014 Community and Culture
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The Himba are a group of semi-nomadic pastoralists who live in the Kaokoland area of Namibia. They are descendants of a group of Herero herders who fled to the north-west of Namibia after being displaced by the Nama people.

The Himba people of Namibia's Kaokoland

The Himba rub their bodies with red ochre and fat to protect themselves from the sun, and the women also add mixtures of aromatic herbs in their skin rub to fragrance their bodies. The Himba make numerous beautiful jewellery items, mostly from iron, ostrich shells, and, more recently, from PVC pipes. Their intricate designs have become popular among Western tourists. Himba homes are cone-shaped and made from palm leaves, cattle dung and mud.

During the course of the year, Himba families move between different settlements in search of grazing for their cattle. The ritual fires and fire line of the Himba are an important part of ancestor worship and respect for these cultural traditions should always be observed when visiting a Himba village. The fire may only be generated by means of ritual fire-sticks (ozondume) of which each lineage-head keeps a special set. The fire is encircled by stones and symbolises sustained contact between the living and deceased members of the family. Its extinction would, therefore, indicate serious neglect on the part of the village head.

During a stay at Serra Cafema Camp in Namibia one can visit a Himba village in the area. On this guided visit you will be taught about the fascinating culture of the Himba people. As with all of Wilderness Safaris’ cultural tourism there are certain guidelines for ensuring that the visit offers a high-quality experience that brings satisfaction and enrichment to guests, as well as greater knowledge and appreciation of cultural heritage while respecting the values and aspirations of the Himba community.

Meet the Himba people of Namibia's Kaokoland

By Dr Sue Snyman, Programme Director: Children in the Wilderness

Wilderness Safaris’ interpretation of ecotourism is structured around the 4Cs philosophy first identified by the Zeitz Foundation ( i.e. Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce.

Culture to a large extent gives context to the other three Cs, as it impacts on and is affected by all the other Cs.

More than 27 different ethnic groups can be found working in our camps and offices! This cultural diversity is worth celebrating and it is also important to increase knowledge, raise awareness and enrich everyone involved by incorporating culture into our camps, offices and guest activities.


All photos © Caroline Culbert

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By Sue Snyman

Sue Snyman, PhD, is the Wilderness community and culture Guru, having recently completed research on the impact of concessions on the surrounding communities in southern Africa.

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