The Ovahimbas of Namibia.
If anyone find naked breasts offensive, please don't look at these photos!!
This is the way these people live and to me there wasn't anything offensive or ugly. It is just so natural and part of the beauty of their nature.

Taking photos of the Ovahimbas was included in our entry fee to visit the village. Very few of these photos were posed for and I just took the photos as we walked through the village.

The Ovahimbas are found in Northern Namibia. An interesting fact is that they never bath or wash themselves with water at all. They have a very interesting cleaning ritual, which takes a couple of hours. They start cleaning themselves very early in the morning by burning wild herbs and sit in the smoke. They also clean their leather clothes with the smoke.

This ritual was demonstrated to us, but the hut was so smoke filled we almost couldn't breathe.

The photos of the first half of this page was taken in

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When a young girl or a woman has such a thing around the neck as this young girl, it means that she isn't married yet.

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This mother and baby photo is one of my all time favourite photos. She was so graceful and so beautiful and most of the time she wasn't even aware that I photographed her.

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A mother and her children

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Ovahimba woman doing traditional craftwork.

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This boy kept wandering off with the tourists visiting the village and his mother tied his ankle with a length of string and also fastened the string to the tree trunk behind her. He could still move around, but could not wander off anymore.

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Photo on the right and below, a young girl demonstrated how the cleaning ritual is performed daily.

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The woman on the left was eager to demonstrate to me what she was making.

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The Ovahimbas use calabashes like this one as containers for mainly sour milk and drinking water.

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This is their staple food and it is made of maize meal. We call it pap.

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A young girl grinding ochre. It is like a dry clay and contains hydrated iron oxide. The Ovahimbas mix the powdered ochre with butter fat and use it on their bodies like a body lotion. It is from the ochre that their bodies have a reddish brown colour. On my last visit to the Village, I saw that they are now using Vaseline or petrolium jelly instead of the butter fat.

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I returned to the Oase Himba Village with great expectations to photograph the Ovahimba women and children again. A couple of months before my visit, I was contacted by a book dealer in Windhoek about a book on the Ovahimbas. The seed was planted and I was seriously thinking about it. When I arrived at Oase Village with a group of tourists, I immediately noticed a change. There were other groups of tourists as well and it was difficult to take photos without a tourist in the picture.

I also noticed a difference in the behaviour of these women. It was like a flee market and the only thing they were interested in, was to sell their craftwork. It was also as if they didn't want to be photographed anymore. All tourists pay to visit the village and included in the deal, is the right to take photos, without having to ask or pay them again. They get paid and get a share of what the tourists pay to visit the village.

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In 2006 she was smiling at me when I took a photo of her. In 2009 she wasn't smiling anymore!

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In 2006 these woman were sitting by their own huts, some with their children or in small groups of 2 or 3 women and they were much more  relaxed and almost much more innocent. In 2009 they were all sitting together in big circle, each one tryng to sell her own craftwork to the tourists. It was if one could see the eagerness to sell their stuff on their faces.

As a photographer, it was almost impossible to take a good photo of an individual woman.

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When the woman on the right pulled a face at me when I wanted to take a photo of her, I immediately changed my mind  about photographing the women in this village any further and I also let go of any plans I might have had about a book in the future!!!

I then decided I would take photos of the children and other things in the village, so I wouldn't leave the place without any photos at all.

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Himba boys playing in the sand.

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When I was at the Himba Village, I din't realize that all the children that were there at that stage, were only boys!!! Of all the photos that I took, there were only three teenage girls and no little girls among the toddlers. This is real strange, so I guess they kept the little girls somewhere else.

I honestly think many the Ovahimbas of Namibia have been spoiled by tourism and by civilization. They have changed so much and because of this, they also got spoiled by money and a more modern or Western lifestyle. Please don't get me wrong. I don't want them to suffer and remain poor. I wish for them or anyone else a much better lifestyle and prosperity, but unfortunately it ended up very bad for some of the Ovahimbas. They learned to beg, to drink alcohol and many became alcoholics. I have heard that some are even selling their own belongings to get more money to buy Black Label beer, which seem to be their favorite. Some women even became prostitutes, just to get more money. This is really sad news to me, but even more sad to themselves. I honestly feel sorry for them, because I think they are now in a position where they don't know how to handle all the changes and they are going to loose their own tradition in the end.

I still remain hopeful that I will be in a position to travel to some remote area where the Ovahimbas still live like they have lived for hundreds of years one day and where they haven't been influenced by tourism yet. Going with a safari or a tour group like I have been doing in 2006 and in 2009, isn't for me anymore. The photos that I got aren't what I really looked for as I really would like to photograph them in their natural surroundings and not a place where they are on show for tourists.

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Last Updated 2014/04/05
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