The Himba: Namibia Essay

The Himba are close descendants of the Herero. They live in Northwest Namibia, which is also known as Kaokoland (KAY-oh-koh-land). Kaokoland is mostly desert or savanna; with these to environments, the climate is generally very dry and very hot. There is little vegetation, but there is scattered shrub land. What resources have been found, are precious metals, such as copper. There is also diamonds and of course, sand. Himba are semi-nomadic pastoralists who raise cattle and goats. Both man and women cover their bodies in a red, mud-like, substance.

This substance is called Otjize, which is a mixture of butter, ash, and ochre. They use Otjize as the equivalent to our sun screen. They believe that the red-ish tint that this paste gives their skin symbolizes life, and is the Himba’s idea of beauty. The Himba are a monotheistic religion, the God that they believe in is known as Mukuru. Each family that is a part of the Himba has their own ancestral fire which is kept by the fire-keeper. Every seven days, in order to communicate with Mukuru and their past relatives, he must approach the ancestral fire on behalf of their family.

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Every member of the Himba belongs to two clans or communities. One through the father (a patriclan, called oruzo) and one through the mother (a matriclan, called eanda). The clans are led by the eldest male in the clan. The sons live with their father’s clan. When a woman marries, she goes to her husband’s clan and is then a member of that community. I wasn’t able to find an official name for the shelter, but I made a replica/model of the structure that they live in. It provides protection from the sand and winds. It also deters what little rain that they might get in Kaokoland.

They generally made their shelters out of small tree trunks or large branches, which ever they have access to. To make it the way that they do, you have to bury roughly 2-3 feet of the wood in the ground in the shape of a circle. Then they take the bark from these trees and use it as a rope. The roof is then thatched, and is ready to be used! The adaptation that the Himba had to make was because there isn’t a Home Depot®, or a Lowes® nearby, they had to use what was available to them to use; which in this case is sand, to secure the wood in place, the trees that grow around them, and the grass that there is an abundance of there.