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Visiting the Himba Village

sunny 35 °C
View Trip of the Half Century on IronladyTravels's travel map.

Leaving Omararu involved backtracking (at least 45 minutes one way - the planner in me grits my teeth at such inefficiency). We stopped in Outjo which is the last “big” town before Etosha Anderson Gate. Big in this case means 6K population.

The temperature is about 30 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. Many of the locals were wearing toques with fuzzy bobbles (what was all the rage in Ontario last winter). We even saw someone wearing a puffy jacket. Our own driver wears jeans and a hoodie all the time. I can’t figure out if he is cold or if the clothes form some sort of insulation against the heat. (I finally asked him why and he said it is so he doesn’t’ get sunburned through the windshield).

Everywhere in Swakopmund or and Outjo were people selling small engraved nuts which were carved in relief. Ie. some of the peel was left on to make a design. The balls are about the size of an american chestnut. They are attached to a small piece of leather. Every block has its own vendor who approach you and try to sell you one. The sellers say they are from Damaraland. They all wear vests as if they are “official” which kind of confused me at first because in Cape Town, those vests are worn by the security people.

After lunch at a bakery (where we had the hugest panini like sandwiches ever - and the most undercooked onion rings - almost as disappointing as discovering cotton candy is cherry flavoured), we popped across to a shop advertising Etosha Information. I stayed behind for a minute and by the time I had gotten there, Paul was buying a tshirt, a hat and a carved elephant - all for himself so it’s not like I’m spoiling anyone's surprise”. You may recall, he had just purchased a new ball cap in Swakopmund but had mistakenly packed it and his luggage was at the bottom of a heap in the back of the van so… logically… you must buy a new one. Something also happened with his packing list as he ended up with five pairs of long pants and 3 tshirts. Nothing that spending money can’t fix.

We spent several hours this afternoon at a Himba Village/living museum. My understanding is that this is a village established for demonstration purposes and various tribe members rotate through so that other people can learn about their culture. The kids also go to school. We were told “do not feel sorry for these peop le as they choose this”. Except I then asked what happens if someone wants to leave and our driver (who native Namibian) said “oh they are killed - it is an honour thing”. To which I said “well, THAT’s a choice”. Our guide looked pained.

(dead goat in a tree)

The woman who is the school teacher gave us an interpretative tour. She is from a similar tribe but one that has adopted western ways. She was matter of fact about Himba practices but was also non -appreciative/critical of some things - like how they wear metal bands on their ankles and only remove them when it cuts it their leg to the point of bleeding. Or how there is both polygamy and absenteeism fathers (she was clear she expected respect from her husband).

There were some odds things like some of the small children were running around with clothes on and some were not. There was a 12 year old boy that my kids talked to who was wearing western clothes and knew english. Some of the women in our group bought things from a lady and it was clear she knew english.

The small children were delightful. There was a super bossy little toddler who went around smacking the other children to keep them in line. There were twins who were both girls but according to custom were being raised as a boy and a girl. Jonathan started tossing them up in the air which they loved. I danced with toddlers while the moms were singing and dancing for us and soon has my arms full as the kids begged for turns.

I was a bit worried about the trip to the village being stilted and staged. It was clearly performative but didn’t feel too obnoxiously intrusive.

Posted by IronladyTravels 09:18 Archived in Namibia

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