Meet the Himba
The fascinating indigenous people of Northern Namibia
The Himba are an indigenous tribe residing in the Northern Namibia, particularly in the Kunene Region. The Himba are a semi-nomadic, pastoralist group who have a rich cultural heritage that continues to thrive amidst the challenges of the modern world.
Their unique traditions, from the use of otjize paste to the bilateral descent system, contribute to their distinct identity as a remarkable indigenous group. You have to see it for yourself.
The Himba: The Fascinating Indigenous People of Northern Namibia
The Himba, also known as Ovahimba, are indigenous peoples residing in the northern regions of Namibia, particularly the Kunene Region (formerly Kaokoland), and across the Kunene River in Angola. With an estimated population of about 50,000, the Himba are a semi-nomadic, pastoralist group, culturally distinct from the Herero people, and their language, Otji-Himba, belongs to the Bantu family within Niger–Congo.
Otjize Paste: An Iconic Tradition
The Himba are widely recognized for their use of otjize paste, a cosmetic mixture of butterfat and ochre pigment. This paste serves both practical and cultural purposes, helping cleanse the skin during periods of water scarcity and protecting them from the intense heat and dry climate of the Kaokoland, as well as from mosquito bites. Otjize is highly valued for its aesthetic beauty, symbolizing the earth's rich red color and the essence of life, aligning with the Himba's ideals of beauty.
Historical Background and Identity
The Himba's history dates back to the early 16th century when they migrated across the Angolan border and settled in Kaokoland. Initially, they were not distinct from the Herero tribe, but a schism emerged when the Herero faced a severe bovine epidemic in the late 19th century. Despite facing genocide organized by German colonial authorities in 1904, the Himba managed to preserve their identity.