One thing Africa is known for is the rich cultural heritage of her diverse tribes. Indeed, there are some dumbfounding yet fascinating traditions in Africa, and one of them takes us down to Northern Namibia to study the Himba tribe.
Get ready to be wowed in this article as we look into some traditions of the “Red People of Africa”—the great Himba tribe, a semi-nomadic people.
Origin and Culture of the Himba Tribe
The Himba tribe can be traced back to the 16th century when members of this tribe crossed the Angola border and settled in a new land known as Kaokoland (meaning “far away land”). Kaokoland is a remote and untouched region of Namibia. It records fewer visits, making it less explored. However, the area would come off as appealing to adventurous travelers.
Initially, this group belonged to the Herero tribe. However, in the 19th century, a pandemic struck the Kunene region in Namibia, and most of their cattle, which they depended on, died, leaving them in a crisis. They moved, leaving behind the Ovahimba group across the Kunene River.
The people of this tribe are called the “Red People of Africa” because of their distinctive way of presenting themselves, especially with their color. Their women tint their bodies with a mix of animal fat and an ochre powder called “otjize paste.” They also color their hair, which symbolizes beauty to them.
The Himba culture embraces polygamy. Average Himba young men may have two wives at a time. Additionally, early-arranged marriages are common in the tribe. Young Himba females marry male spouses chosen by their fathers. This begins during puberty and can result in girls as young as ten being married off.
The Rite of Passage
In the Himba culture, the circumcision of boys before puberty is a rite of passage. A Young Himba man is not regarded as a man until he marries. A Himba girl is also not considered a full-fledged woman until she has a child.
The members of this clan exhibit the true meaning of culture. Their traditional attires, hairstyles, and jewelry all prove the significance of their culture. They take special care of their bodies. Their women spend several hours a day making their beauty shine and sleep on wooden pillows at night to avoid damaging their hairstyles. They do all these to honor their beauty.
Women from this tribe are considered proud and elegant and regarded as the most beautiful in the world. They wear necklaces and bracelets, too. It’s a traditional lifestyle.
A Himba village is relatively easy to identify; their houses are plain, round huts made of a sticky substance created by a mixture of earth and cow dung. Occasionally, a fence may completely enclose the Himba village.
However, the Himbas are Namibia’s last semi-nomadic tribe, so these huts are frequently abandoned. Periodically, they move from one place to another due to climate change. Always seeking pasture for their livestock, sheep and goats.
5 Fascinating Facts About the Himba People
- One unique thing about these people is that they bathe in smoke. Apart from applying the red ochre, their women take a daily smoke bath to maintain hygiene. Only their men are allowed to use water for wash purposes.
- They believe and communicate with their supreme being through their holy fire. Their supreme being is called Mukuru. They believe their ancestors are Mukuru’s representatives. They preserve their way of life as much as they can.
- The Himba people eat maize and porridge all the time, which is surprisingly easy to prepare. They simply heat water until it’s boiled, then add some flour to it and mix gently, and the food is ready to serve. However, on some occasions, like weddings, they eat meat.
- Their women do more intensive work. The strong Himba women collect and carry firewood and water to their homes, milk their cows, and even build their homes. Young girls take care of the children in the community.
- Their different and intricate hairstyles indicate their age and social status. In the well-known Marvel Studios film Black Panther, the Himba culture was portrayed as one of Wakanda’s elders sported the recognizable red clay Himba hairstyle.
The Himba people may not be well-known, but they are unique. It is important to note how different and special they are.