Epupa Falls – Himba Tribe

The Himba are a semi-nomadic tribe whose existence centres on herding and breeding sheep, cattle and goats. The women are known for covering their bodies with otjize, a mixture of butter fat and ochre which gives their skin and plaited hair a reddish tinge. Traditionally both men and women go topless and wear skirts or loincloths made of animal skins.

🙂 Fascinating culture.

🙁 Knocking teeth out at 11yrs. FGM. Child marriage. People who rip you off.

Monday, 4 January 2021: Epupa Falls – Himba Village 31C

Up before 07h00 to watch the glorious sun rise and enjoyed coffee and rusks next to the river.

Anna took us to the small village shop where a goat was being freshly slaughtered to celebrate the end of the school year for local students.

SO hot, Lay by the pool. Friendly Ovambu girls offered to do our washing and the girls hair. Once they had our money they were no longer as friendly and did not bring our washed clothing back to us so that we had to spend an hour trying to find it – so unnecessary and unpleasant. We had been warned not to use them and now we know why.

Life is hectic here. Anna, the hostess at the Epupa Falls Lodg told us that Ovambu men often murder their wives! Her previous colleague had been a lovely, calm man who she enjoyed working with. However, on 15 December he had stabbed his girlfriend and cut off her head and sent it by courier to her Mother in Windhoek because she had broken up with him. He had locked their 2 and 5 year old children with the decapitated body until the police found them days later!! He had hung himself before the police could get to him … Nightmare story. She herself has three children from her ex and has escaped from him and he does not know where she is as she lives in fear as he has told her he will kill her when he finds her because she left him. A different world.

We were then collected to go and visit the local Himba Village. We were concerned that it would be a tacky tourist experience. It was not – very authentic. Although the Himba do still practice their way of life they do open their villages to tourists as a source of income. The way that the hair is worn and decorated indicates the age of the child. At about 12 years old the hair at the front is divided and then pulled into the ponytails at the back.

The Himba Tribe are indigenous peoples with an estimated population of about 50,000 people living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene Region (formerly Kaokoland) and on the other side of the Kunene River in southern Angola. They are predominantly livestock farmers and count their wealth in terms of cattle. Women tend to do all the labour intensive jobs (collecting water, milking cows, collecting firewood etc) while the men tend livestock or leave home for extended periods to hold council with neighbouring tribal chiefs. The Chief of the village that we visited proudly told us that he had 36 children, 8 with the one wife and 4 with the other and all the other children were from his many lovers.

To honour the cow, the bottom 4 teeth are knocked out with a stick when both boys and girls are about 11 years old in a ceremony around the ‘sacred fire’. (Apparently this assists in the proper pronunciation of certain words!) Circumcision is practised on both boys and girls. Girls are married off to male partners selected by their fathers once they attain puberty, often to older men who are relatives. Here you can see our guide’s smile. He says he remembers the day his teeth were knocked out vividly and that he couldn’t cry despite the intense pain.

Once a girl reaches puberty she never bathes with water again, instead they use smoke from the sacred fire and cover themselves with otjize paste, a cosmetic mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment which actually smells really good as it is perfumed from the aromatic resin of the omuzumba shrub.

This is also used in their hair which is braided. Their skins are exquisitely smooth and the women are incredibly beautiful. Men usually have at least two wives and many lovers and they do not tolerate jealousy between the women. It is customary to offer the wife to a male guest who is visiting, known as the Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment.

The girls who had babies were still beautiful young teenagers. It was an incredibly interesting visit but left the girls and I feeling quite disturbed and feeling very grateful that we were not born into this culture.

While on the Himba Tour the chief had told us that he was considering giving his 12 year old daughter away in marriage to a American guy who was willing to pay a lot of money. The Chief said he would do so once she had her first period. Anna pointed out the old grey disgusting man who was eating dinner at the Lodge and talking loudly in his accent – he was the man who had come to take the child. Made our blood boil.

The cool breeze was lovely while we ate a delicious lunch of chicken salad before heading back to the pool to recover from the heat. Paul started a potjie and left it to simmer. We walked to the Himba Village where they were still selling authentic Himba items (not Chinese trinkets).

We were then driven to a sunset vista for sundowners and we could see where Jeremy Clark and the team had hoisted their vehicle. Stunning sunset and vista.

The baobab tree is covered in names – sadly these are all of deceased people who have either been taken by crocodiles or drowned in the river. Tom, the African guide showed us the pam where his brother had been taken cy a crocodile. His other brother and nephew were also taken by crocs!!

By the time we got back our delicious potjie was ready to be eaten!

Go Back to: Palmwag to Epupa Falls

Go to: Epupa to Etosha Pan (Olifantsrus)

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