Posted by: megandnath | January 24, 2011

Day 43 – Himba tribe

Tucked away in the bush of northern Namibia lives one of the most interesting tribes you’ll ever meet. If you didn’t know abut them you could easily drive right past. Tucked away behind small hills, deep within the thick green trees and down small sandy tracks tiny villages exist because of the handwork of its residents. No water mains run out here, no power lines bring any form of energy, no postal services deliver and very few maps even bother to print the name on the map.

As our truck rolled to a stop on the sandy road we were greeted by a middle aged man wearing nothing but some old sandals, shorts and a traditional headscarf. Waving his stick he directed us towards his small village. Surrounded by a fence made of tree branches were 6-8 small huts all constructed from mud and sticks with a thatch roof. A couple of small children appeared from one of the huts eventually followed by an older lady. The Himba tribe of northern Namibia must easily be on of the worlds most authentic tribes living a very traditional life that has only changed slightly with the arrival of westerners.

As the lady walked towards us her naked breasts swayed from side to side, the Himba woman wear nothing above the waist besides a few ornamental pieces of jewelery. Her skin was covered in a bright reddish/brown paste from head to toe, no part of it left unpainted. Her hair was woven together with the reddish/brown mud into tight strands almost like dreadlocks, on her head she wears some form of animal skin headdress and around her shoulders, waist and breasts is an interconnected sling like system covered in jewelery. Around her waist hangs a number of layered animal skins, again all tinged reddish/brown from her body paint and as your eyes follow her legs down you are meet with an assortment of ankle bracelets.

Everything the Himba woman wear has meaning, nothing is waisted or worn just for show, from the headdress to the necklaces and ankle bracelets each item explains something; their marital status, age, sexual development and family group.

From behind the Himba woman peer the small children, wearing nothing but milk bottle top bracelets, they struggle to hide their curiosity and excitement. As they turn around their bottoms are marked a dusty white, the only part of their body not totally black. Then as they smile their huge white teeth appear and their small hands wave from side to side. Slowly but surely more village members appear, children run out of nowhere and younger Himba woman with all different sized and shaped breasts appear carrying baskets.

Over the next 2hrs we explored the village, inside the huts and around the dusty field, meeting the chief, his 3 wives and playing with his 35 children! The Himba woman seemed totally comfortable standing almost stark naked in front of westerners and the children appeared not to have a care in the world as they clambered over us. They absolutely loved being thrown into the air, hung from their feet and being taken on piggy back rides, every time you put them down they’d do their best to latch onto you and not let go.

One young lady, who was apparently 15 (but we all think she was much more developed than that) showed us how they cover their bodies in the reddish/brown paint, use smoke to clean themselves and as a perfume and how to grind maize between rocks to make food.

Unlike many local tribes around the world the Himba do still live traditional lives; they sleep in mud huts, heard cattle, wear their unique dress everyday and not just when tourists arrive, learn the traditional ways of the bush as appose to going to school and suffer from health issues modern medicine can fix in the blink of an eye. Even though they live in one of Africa’s more civilized countries they somehow manage to define their culture from the other tribes and live it everyday of the week, not just when they choose to.

Our visit was one of those experiences that makes you appreciate what you have at home but also reminds you how other people live, a moving experience that ignites the adventurer and the humanitarian in you at the same time.



  1. Incredible ! Truly a highlight of yr trip. A short visit but one you will never forget.
    Any changes from when you were there 6 yrs ago Nathan, same Chief????
    Megan, you weren’t tempted to have yr hair done????

  2. do the tourist pay some money to go to see this people of this tribe?

    • No money but we took supplies like maize, flour and sugar as gifts.

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