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African Beauty Culture



The Himba, also known as Ovahimba, are surely one of the most visited and photographed ethnic groups in Africa. The Himba territory is distributed throughout the region of Kaokoland in the North of Naimbia and in the region of Kunene in the South of Angola. The aesthetic and in particular the hairstyle has a special importance among the Himba women and is also loaded with symbolism. Himba girls usually made two small braids in the front of their head until puberty. In the adolescence already, they make long extensions that will cover a part of its face. Already of marriageable age, the Himba woman combs her braids back and leaves her face completely clear.

The Himba practice polygamy and the man Himba must pay for them a dowry consisting of a certain number of heads of cattle. Once married, the husband must meet each and every one of his wives. That includes protecting them and giving them children. When the woman gets married, she puts on her head a head dress made of goat skin called erembe. The Himba are semi-nomadic shepherds belonging to the Herero group. According to different sources, it is believed that the Herero arrived in the 16th Century from this region of Africa from the Great Lakes region.

The Himba base their economy mainly on the cattle, which has only economic value, but also social and religious. They use the skin, the meat and the milk in their day-to-day, but also the number of heads of cattle will mark the status and the social hierarchy. Cattle are present in most ethnic rituals and ceremonies. Special interest among the Himba has the cult of the ancestor. When a man dies, some of his sacred cows are sacrificed with the idea that the souls of them come together.

When the deceased is a child, he is usually buried under the cattle in the center of the village. The Himba villages are usually made up of a small group of houses. Two or three families can share the houses of the village.

The houses are circular and are finished with a coating made of cow dung mixed with sand. This work is done by the Himba women in a job that is usually collective. Fire is the responsibility of men and has a sacred character among the Himba as it is the fire of the ancestors and always has to remain alive. When it is necessary to cook, the woman Himba will catch the embers of that fire to put it in his hut.

The Himba woman dedicates daily an important time to take care of her body and aesthetics. They smear their bodies with the mixture of a reddish stone – which they obtain them from distant mountains – that grind to dust and mix with animal lard. The mass they get spread through their bodies to protect themselves from the sun and from dryness. It is precisely this reddish hue of their skins one of the most outstanding and appreciable characteristics of the Himba women. Survivors throughout history to various warlike conflicts maintain, however, their tradition tourism, especially in the area of Namibia.

A good starting point in Namibia to visit the Himba villages may be the population of Opuwo (Capital of Cunene). To the villages Himbas of the Angolan part we can accede by Ruhacana. The Himba ethnicity is fun and extroverted and spending some time with them will allow us to know a little more about their interesting culture and tradition.

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