The people of Ovahimba and Ovazimba tribes in the Kunene and Omusati regions in Northern Namibia have an upheld culture that has defied western influence and agitation.
With a population of over 50,000, the women engage in the daily activity of milking their cows, taking care of the children and other extensive duties while the men go hunting leaving, sometimes, for an extended period of time. These nomads’ wealth is determined by the number of cattle one has. A polygamous people, the Himba girls are married off to male partners selected by their fathers once they attain puberty.
You cannot ignore the red skin they have. The red colour seen on their skin is called, the otjize paste ( a combination of butterfat, omuzumba scrub and ochre) and its function is to protect their skin from the sun and insect bites. They are also guided by the belief that the colour red signifies “Earth and blood”. Rather than take their baths, the women take a smoke bath and apply aromatic resins on their skin.
Honour Is Relative
Give honour to whom it is due: This saying is applied differently in this tribe. When a visitor comes knocking, a man shows his approval and pleasure of seeing his guest by giving him the Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment. This practice literally means that his wife is given to his guest to spend the night while the husband sleeps in another room. In a case where there is no available room, her husband will sleep outside.
This handed down tradition has its “benefits” in the community: it reduces jealousy and fosters relationships. The woman has little or no opinion in the decision making. Submission to her husband’s demands come first. She has an option of refusing to sleep with him but has to sleep in the same room as the guest. She is also entitled to give her friends to her husband when they visit but this rarely happens.