Himba Tribe, Kunene, Namibia
These photos were taken in the north west part of Namibia, in the Kunene (Kaokoland) region. The Himba are an ethnic group of about 20,000 to 50,000 people living in this area; they are nomadic, pastoral people, closely related to the Herero, and speak the same language.
The Himba breed cattle and goats. The responsibility of milking the cows lies with the women. Women take care of the children, and one woman will take care of another woman's children. Women tend to perform more labor-intensive work than men do, such as carrying water to the village and building homes.
The Himba wear little clothing, but the women are famous for covering themselves with a mixture of butter fat, ochre, and herbs to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge. The mixture symbolizes earth's rich red color and the blood that symbolizes life. Women braid each others hair and cover it in their ochre mixture.
Because of the harsh desert climate in the region where they live and their seclusion from outside influences the Himba have managed to maintain much of their traditional lifestyle.
The Himba's history is wrought with disasters, including severe droughts and guerrilla warfare, especially during Namibia's quest for independence and as a result of the civil war in neighboring Angola. In 1904, they suffered from the same attempt at genocide by the German colonial power under Lothar von Trotha that decimated other groups in Namibia, notably the Herero and the Nama (in older sources also called Namaqua). In the 1980's it appeared the Himba way of life was coming to a close. A severe drought killed ninety percent of their cattle and many gave up their herds and became refugees in the town of Opuwo living in slums on international relief.
But Since the 1990's, the Himba have been successful in maintaining control of their lands and have experienced a resurgence. Many Himba now live on nature conservancies that give them control of wildlife and tourism on their lands. They have worked with international activists to block a proposed hydro-electric dam along the Epupa Dam that would have flooded their ancestral lands.
The government of Namibia has provided mobile schools for Himba children. Their life is still the same, but the children can read and write.
See also this interesting article : National Geographic : Romanticized by tourists, Namibia's Himba struggle to maintain control of their life and lands.