Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Himba People of Namibia


This is the fifth posting in a sequence of blogs highlighting the many places in Namibia which will be visited on the Strabo 2014 Namibia Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and myself.  The images featured in my Namibia blogs are from my most recent and previous visits to Namibia and feature the places included in the itinerary for 2014.
The next stop on our 2014 Strabo Namibia Photo Tour will be to the town of Opuwo which is the capital of the Kunene Region in north-western Namibia.  The mingling of ethnic groups on the streets of Opuwo is a sight you will always remember!  It is here where we will have the opportunity to photograph the Himba people.  We will be spending two nights at the Opuwo Country Hotel which is situated on the outskirts of the town on a hilltop which overlooks breathtaking mountains and valleys. 
Himba Woman and Goat Herd
The Himba are semi-nomadic people and are indigenous to the northern Kunene Region of Namibia.  They live with their extended family in a kraal- which is a fenced circle of individual family huts surrounding a central livestock enclosure and a sacred fire.  Their livestock are a symbol of their wealth and so these people will travel with their herds to find adequate grazing and water to keep the herds healthy and producing new offspring.
Himba Wealth

Himba Woman in Late Afternoon Light
During our time in Opuwo, we will have the opportunity to visit two different authentic Himba villages (kralls) and photograph the people who live there.  One session will take place in the morning as their daily village activities begin.  During this session we will learn about their fascinating culture and beliefs from our personal Himba guide.  The second session of the day will be in the late afternoon and on into the "golden hour" which enhances the red skin tones which are unique to these women.
 
The Himba are beautiful and friendly people.  The women of this culture are best known for covering themselves with 'otjize'- a mixture of butterfat and red powdered ochre.  The women perform the ritual of bathing in this mixture on a daily basis, resulting in their iconic deep red skin color.  We are usually able to enter a hut and watch this bathing process.  Although you will have to use a very high ISO, the light streaming in from the doorway allows us to create some very special images of these beautiful women.
Mixing Ochre                              Bathing Ritual
During the time spent in the villages, it will be time to change from our landscape photography techniques used during the first half of our trip to those suited for portraiture.  Typically, a mid-range telephoto lens (24-105mm) will be the workhorse of your Himba visit.  However, it is also nice to have a longer telephoto lens (70-200mm) handy for intimate portraits and for isolating details.
Portrait of a Himba Woman                                    Clothing Details
The Himba people are very receptive to our presence in their village and the children are a delight!  They adore having their photos taken and then seeing their likeness on the backs of our cameras!
Himba Children Delight In Seeing Themselves
Upon leaving the village and presenting the people with our thank-you gifts, the women produce some of their handmade crafts and offer them for sale.  While not obligated to buy them, it is tough to resist, knowing you are helping their existence while taking a bit of Himba culture home with you as a souvenir.
Handmade Himba Crafts
Photos of the Himba people  made on my most recent visit to Namibia can be seen HERE.
Please consider joining us on our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour.  It is a trip you will never forget!
 

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