faces of namibia behind the scenes...

Faces of Namibia is my new portrait project. Here I'm telling you the stories behind the scenes of individual photographs. What I have experienced and felt in this particular moment and the thoughts these people have triggered in my mind.

 

I hope to create a more complete picture of the photograph and the individual with this project. Any thoughts are much appreciated as comment!

mineral miner namibia hohenstein
mineral miner namibia hohenstein

 

This guy is one of the mineral miners of the Hohensteinfels, which is more than 1.800 m high and the highest mountain in Namibia and therefore higher than Spitzkoppe. We were on our way in a game drive vehicle to the edge of the mountain where we wanted to start to hike to visit the mineral miners.

We decided to pick up this miner who was on foot with 10 liter of petrol and food in the midday heat of 35 degrees with his cap (against the sun, not he cold). I used the opportunity to talk to him and ask him as much as possible about his live as a miner, mining in general, his country, his desires and his concerns.

You just have to look in his eyes and have in mind that these guys drill wholse of not more than 1 m diameter for years until they reached a depth between 50 and 100 m, always hoping for the one lucky mineral pocket which makes them rich or at least enables them to provide for their family. These guys live on the bare stone in cages or small tents somewhere in the Hohensteinfels without any further security or help.

These man deeply impressed me, their live if even more tough than I can imagine and still they give you an honest an descent smile, at least most of them – some are also lost…

 

mineral seller brandberg namibia
mineral seller brandberg namibia

 

This guy was one of my first challenges and many more were to come. We were at the Brandberg filling station as one of our tires had a puncture. During the waiting time each and every stone seller approached us and tried his luck. Money was of course out of scope, but food was discussed in detail. He tried to get everything and as much food as possible from our car and moreover he was able to chat me up and convice me to buy him a can of fish on top. The Herero lady behind the counter was only shaking one`s head.

I still remember this man with good feelings, even as he was only playing his role – a special role for every different tourist. But I was also playing a role, a different role for every local to show me something special in front of my lense…

 

himba namibia Epupa falls
himba namibia Epupa falls

Visiting the Himba tribe in the northwest of Namibia close to the angolan boarder was one of the main reasons for this year`s trip to Namibia. Besides that I wanted to drive all the way north to the Epupa Falls on my own. The Himba are indigenous people as well as the San who used to live in the Kalahari. The main difference between both is that the San were hunters and collectors and the Himba are cattle breeders and therefore still partially be able to live a traditional seminomadic life. Many documentaries and photographs show a rather romantic picture of the Himba, which is not always necessarily the case. 

Besides that new technologies as the Internet and Smartphones don`t remain hidden as well as the abuse of alcohol. The region is currently facing a series draught for many years and nearly all the cattle has dies. As a consequence many Himba don`t have anything to do and don`t know what to do the whole day. One of the self evident easy answers is nothing but drinking. Besides that it is easy to beg tourists to give them money as there are enough. 

In more rural areas the Himba do still live quite isolated and look very skinny, especially compared to the ones who live close to Epupa and developed skills to live from tourists. 

Of course I´m part of the problem as a tourist. If I visit a Kraal and bring food or give them money I engage them to beg even harder. Besides many wonderful experiences with the Himba, the Himba culture is also disenchanted for me. As always reality is more complex than expected and easy solutions are a fairy tale. Please feel invited to visit the Himba on your own and form an opinion on your own.

 

faces of namibia: boy katutura township windhoek namibia
faces of namibia: boy katutura township windhoek namibia

 

Have a deep look into the eyes of this boy from Katutura Township in Windhoek, I couldn`t tell you more…

 

I met this little boy in a kindergarden in the township of Katutura in Windhoek Namibia. We just arrived in Windhoek in the late afternoon and were already sitting at the back of an old Land Rover Defender and in the middle of Katutura. It is hot and windy and all the different  still strange smells are around me and I´m getting drawn into Africa and into Katutura. One moment before I was still a European in Europe and right now I´m a white guy in a black township. The next moment the defender stops directly in front of a kindergarden and seconds later I´m surrounded by a crowd of kids inside, curious and friendly kids – some curious because of my skin colour, some as I´m a complete stranger from far far away and some because of my camera in front of me. Everybody was running around me, coming close directly in front of the lense, because nobody knows how a camera works, but everybody wants to come close and try to understand how the camera works and of course all oft hem want to see the pictures.

 

But one boy is different his facial and hand expression is still a mystery for but. He has that certain something, he is different, I don`t know why, but he clearly is. He is one of many living proofs to me, you can achieve everything what you want to regardless of origin. I do have that feeling that this kid plays an important role in the future and he will know how to play…

 

faces of namibia: girl katutura township windhoek namibia
faces of namibia: girl katutura township windhoek namibia

 

What do you see while looking into the deep eyes of this kindergarden girl. A girl living in the township of Katutura in Windhoek – poverty, desperation, discouragement? I do see intelligence, hope and curiosity and this gives me hope for this young African generation. Hope for a better education and hope for change for the better. All the best for you little girl, you deeply impressed me…

 

himba child red drum kaokoveld, faces of namibia
himba child red drum kaokoveld, faces of namibia

 

That little boy lives with his very young mother in the Kaokoveld close to the so called „Red Drum“, which is located more or less in the middle of nowhere – nowhere because of no medical care, no schools and currently also no food because of a serious draught.

Future prospects for this little boy are far away from good. But even with this poor prospects he survived until today. Growing up in a semi arid area with a constant lack of water and food forces you to grow up quickly and become an adult soon.

His eyes already tell the story of hostile life conditions, but they also tell the story of a strong boy who wants to survive, who wants to live, to feel and to be happy in his life at the end of the world at the Red Drum and for sure he will fight for it… 

 

herero man kaokoveld namibia
herero man kaokoveld namibia

 

If you want to learn something about life you just have to look him into the eyes. Senior man and women living in desert or semi arid areas do have a special wisdom, freedom and calmness in their eyes which I can`t explain, but which I deeply feel and adore. There seems to be a secret about life I haven`t still fully understood, I do have a faint idea but can`t really absorb it. The good news about this conclusion is, that I have to go back again to the desert and semi arid areas in Africa, these places which taught me so much about myself and life…

 

herero women kaokoveld namibia
herero women kaokoveld namibia

 

Finding a Heero women in her typical dress is not too difficult, if you are in the correct part of Namibia. However finding and photographing is sometimes a bit different and mostly connected with money or buying some souveniers.

This shot was a lucky coincidence. We were driving on the Pad D3707 – the Himba Highway - in the Kaokoveld, we were heading west to Opuwo after a coupke of wundeful nights at Etambura. Close to the village Kaoko Otavi we were lost. The Pad couldn`t even hardly been seen, especially not in the dry riverbed.

We crossed a kettle post and a view Herero women, man and children were sitting in their typical clothes in the shade under a tree. I stopped the car, jumped out and asked them for destinations. In the beginning they were kind of confused and reserved especially as English seemed not very familiar tot hem. I was wondering as our car definately wasn`t the only car around in years, but it doesn`t seem to be very common that tourists stop and start to chat with them.

After a while I knew we were not lost and which way to go. I thanked them and asked if there is anything I can do for them. Surprisingly even they, owners of quite an amount of kettle, asked me for food and water. The current draught was indeed serious. I grabbed water and food from the car and everybody started to eat immediately.

 

The ice was broken and I had the opportunity to take some very honest shots of this Herero group, shots I´m really happy with…

 

himba boy epupa falls village, kaokoveld namibia, face of namibia
himba boy epupa falls village, kaokoveld namibia, face of namibia

 

Sometimes everything necessary is being in the right place at the right time. We were coming from a morning Himba tour with our guide in our own 4x4 and just arrived in the village of Epupa for some diesel. Epupa doesn`t have a filling station, but our guide knows somebody with a barrel in his flake and who is willing to sell us some diesel fort he double price – a fair deal, if you are running out of fuel. I just finished holding a plastic five liter water gallon on top of a sliced open 1.5 litre water bottle which we used as filler neck. Of course our car attracted some attention and of course because of our guide everybody was familiar with us. I was just standing there a couple of seconds with my diesel water bottle surrounded by children, when this little boy appeared and stopped 1.5 meters in front of me not stopping to inspect me intensily. I just got down on my knees raised my camera and replied his inspection. The result is this photograph, a photograph which I was dreaming of for a long time, especially because of the wood on top of his head, it couldn`t be better…

 

man epupa falls village kaokoveld namibia
man epupa falls village kaokoveld namibia

 

I would have never expected that my youth history of blowing up my rose water destilation process in my children`s room and the consequence of a huge spot on the ceiling would give me the opportunity to take this shot. I am in the village of Epupa Falls in Namibia and directly at the Angolian border. I just have visited the „cash cash bar“ of this man. It is Sunday morning and the bar is quite crowded with guests who are more or less all sharing one or two beer`s in alternating rounds. Right now I´m standing outsie of his bar in the heat, the sun is burning merciless. Beside me are two old oil barrels, which he uses for distilling hard liquor. He is deadly serious and very proud oft he only destilation unit in the whole village. Only after I have told him my story he gives me a commendable smile…

 

himba women kaokoveld namibia - red drum
himba women kaokoveld namibia - red drum

 

A penny for her thoughts…

 

I met this woman far away from everything in the middle of the Kaokoveld, a very remote area - the red drum (6G3F+G6 Ombawe, Namibia) - next stop van Zyls pass. We drove close to three hours to manage the drive 30 km drive from the Etambura Camp to the red drum. Not an overcrowded area, every visitor writes his name on a stone to proof that he made it so far.

For the Himba this is their traditional homeland, it doesn`t matter how remote the area is, they have donkeys which they use as caravan to cross their land.

 

This woman and young woman must have seen our dust cloud from the distance and appeared shortly out of nowhere at the red drum with her sun. She doesn´t speak any English, but it is obvious she wants to sell us some necklaces. She is very shy and reserved. But some Polaroid photos of herself and for her own changed her and she became a bit openhearted.

 

The photo is saying more than a thousand words – the hard life of a young mother in the middle of nowhere, with nothing not even enough food to eat. But she is strong and her eyes are positive, she is alive and she loves her live – doesn`t matter how hard it is…

 

portrait himba tribe epupa falls kaokoveld namibia
portrait himba tribe epupa falls kaokoveld namibia

 

Visiting a traditional Himba Kraal was the main intention for traveling by car far into the north and deep into the Kaokoveld to Epupa Falls at the Kunene river, the boarder to Angola.

Visiting a traditional indigenous Himba tribe was an existential experience for me, not necessarily in the way described in travel guide books, but with many many memories – positive and negative. From the media I was mostly aware of positive impressions, which were also the reasons why I went on this journey and I didn`t got disappointed and additionally I found many things which were unknown, strange and not logical for me as a European and it is important to understand that the Himba are not European and that these are my personal prejudices which I have to get rid of, to give me the opportunity to understand their culture at least a tiny bit better.

 

After the usual distance was broken we had an awesome morning and I learned quite a lot – most impressed me the pride in their culture and their open-hearted and hones smile…

 

himba man epupa falls kaokoveld namibia
himba man epupa falls kaokoveld namibia

 

He is the goldsmith of the Epupa Falls village and with hardly five different tools, his gold is metal. With his tools he produces all different kinds of ornaments for all Himba in the region. He is astonishingly skilled with his tools and hammers all kinds of animals in minutes into the metal. A whole bracelet doesn`t take longer than two minitues – impressive. Himba do wear all kinds of different ornaments, depending on sex, age and status. An incredible experience watching him in front of his small hut, sitting on the bare ground using his tools just on a stone and his feet. Humans do have such talent for improvisation regardless of their conditions…

 

himba girl epupa falls kaokoveld namibia
himba girl epupa falls kaokoveld namibia

 

Portrait photography is something new for me, which I discovered during my last Namibia trip to the Kaokoveld. I wanted to portrait people from the indigenous Himba tribe. Most impressing were the children, they always seemed so openhearted and happy. There life is so reduced to the basics, but still they seem to be centered at their young age, with a portion of wisdom and completely open for everything new this world has to offer…

 

himba women epupa falls kaokoveld namibia
himba women epupa falls kaokoveld namibia

 

One Himba women impressed me with especially with her eyes. At first she was more than shy and tried to ignore the camera and me but after a while she gained more confidence and gave me this special glance…

 

himba women epupa falls kaokoveld namibia
himba women epupa falls kaokoveld namibia

 

She used to live as a traditional Himba as her front teeth are obviously showing. But she decided on her own not to life a traditional Himba life. A decision which is up to her, to her family and not her husband. Women are also allowed to ask for a divorce, which does seem to be pretty advanced for indigenous people for hundreds of years or are we in our modern world just lagged behind. Maybe there is more to learn from them than expected. I really appreciate their view on the world even as this was also for me not the case from the beginning…

 

himba women red drum kaokoveld namibia
himba women red drum kaokoveld namibia

 

It doesn’t matter how long you drive, how far you go or how deep in the desert you are. Someone will have spotted you on your way and follow you, just to say hello as there is no much talking in the desert, because they are curious to get to hear the news, of course for trading and if you haven’t anything to trade just to ask for something in exchange for a photograph. We were driving at least two hours on the roughest track I have ever driven from the remote location of Etambura to the so called Red Drum in the northeastern part of the Kaokoveld. I was completely sure to be completely alone in the semiarid desert, but as so often in nature I’m completely wrong - another lesson I have learned about Namibia and life…

 

faces of namibia portrait
faces of namibia portrait

 

In the beginning this teenager got really on my nerves. He was beside several others hanging out at the only filling station at Opuwo village the only supply center for the whole Kaokoveld. It was a busy day at the filling station, all filling lines were busy and a long line of cars were waiting as other filling stations in the Kaokoveld again ran out of Diesel. Having so many cars in a row is of course an attraction and perfect precondition to ask tourists for food or money.

We were waiting in line and I was in front of the car chatting with people and trading food and water for photographs until the teenager and his friend appeared. They pushed me so hard and always further and further that I got very angry as I felt so bad because I couldn’t do anything and everybody was coming to me and asking for something and more. In the end I managed to convince him to a photo trade and could calm myself down taking a couple of pictures of him. Looking at the situation retrospectively I do understand him, possibly I would have pushed at least as har as he did on me if I would be in his situation. Sometimes it is still hard for me to stay calm having the necessary broader overview and prospective. Time to hit the road again…

faces of namibia portrait miner
faces of namibia portrait miner

 

He is the foreman for one of the small groups at the Hohenstein Fels, the second highest mountain in namibia with 2206 meter. Not an easy job in many ways and definitely a dangerous job even as it looks like fun how he miners seem to run the Hohenstein highway without any effort. But as quite often in Africa appearances are deceiving.

As foreman you are not the friend of anybody at the mountain. You are responsible, you have the responsibility ad you have to ensure that everybody stays save and can go home to their family. As a foreman many of your guys won’t like you because you are too strict to keep them alive…

faces of namibia himba chief epupa falls
faces of namibia himba chief epupa falls

 

He is quite a man, complained deeply as we arrived without any food presents and only started to smile after I gave him two packages of tobacco, his favorite brand. After that the ice was broken and he started to tell us his whole biography, including the last war which was also taking place in the Kaokoveld and showed us his old rifle which he used during the war. Being and visiting these places and meeting these people is being in another universe in a positiv way…

 

faces of namibia boy epupa falls
faces of namibia boy epupa falls

 

The boy does have the typical children’s face, something between anxiety and curiosity. Obviously he doesn’t know how to categorize me. He was hiding behind his friends for quite a while and even crying before he decided to give curiosity predominance.

Kids all over the world have the same behavior being very young. They are afraid and curious at once and thankfully curiosity is mostly the winner without any influence from an adult. This gives me hope for a better understanding of all races, colors, religions…

faces of namibia himba boy epupa falls
faces of namibia himba boy epupa falls

 

He is shy as he doesn’t now us, but he is also curious and interested as we does seem to look very strange for him. I would like to spend more time with him get to know him and his family better, but time is very limited on our vacation, even as I planned the trip to meet the Himba and spent some time with them. I would love to visit the Kaokoveld again and spent more time with the Himba as I do have so many questions and no real understanding, no matter how many conservation books I read and to how many people in the region I speak, everybody tells another story ans I haven’t found my own yet…

 

faces of namibia himba women epupa falls
faces of namibia himba women epupa falls

 

This himba women is confusing me for quite a while. For a long time I was wondering how her expressions matches with her child on her knee. Neither the child nor she are having any kind of connection in this moment. However she is smiling and having one of these deep impressions in her eyes. Currently I believe she is thinking about one of her very good memories. I like the idea that she is happily daydreaming under this tree once we were resting under this tree…

 

faces of namibia himba man epupa falls
faces of namibia himba man epupa falls

 

He is quite s shy man and gave me a long hard time before he was ready for an honest portrait. I really like his warmheartedness and his smile. He is happy with his life and with himself as well. Something I haven’t achieved yet, therefore he is even more inspiring for me…

 

faces of namibia boy epupa falls
faces of namibia boy epupa falls

 

If it would always be this easy to make children laugh. Live in the Kaokoveld is very different from what we are used to, it is every exciting and challenging for children. I never get tired observing what happens if children have a knew toy…

 

faces of namibia portrait himba boy
faces of namibia portrait himba boy

 

I don’t have a clue what is going on in his head and what he is thinking about. He could be very sad, but he also could only be very curious as his eyes are telling me. As longer as I’m looking on that photograph the more I’m interested in the boys expression. Thank you very much for this moment.

 

faces of namibia portrait women
faces of namibia portrait women

 

True kindness and an honest smile are deep inside of many people I met during my travels in Southern Africa, no matter how hard their lives are and must seem much more harder from their perspective comparing our lives. Nevertheless people meet me with curiosity honesty and a big smile on their face. Something I’m trying to adapt since then - unfortunately still unsuccessful …

 

faces of namibia portrait himba man
faces of namibia portrait himba man

 

Himba man sitting in front of his traditional hut bild of sticks and cattle dung. Hut construction is holistic within the hands of women. Not because the man doesn’t want to handle cattle dung, which is as close to sacred as their cattle. In fact it is much more advanced, it is about balancing power between man and women. If women are only allowed to build and maintain huts a man without a wife is not able to have a hut.

 

faces of namibia portrait miner
faces of namibia portrait miner

 

True kindness and an honest smile are deep inside of many people I meet during my travels in Southern Africa, no matter how hard their lives is and even seems terribly harder for me most people meet me with curiosity honesty and a big smile on their face. Something I’m trying to adapt since then - unfortunately still unsuccessful …

 

faces of namibia portrait miner boy
faces of namibia portrait miner boy

 

He is the one really young miner and you can clearly see in his eyes that he s not happy, he is struggling with the situation, being away from his family, being alone on a mountain with only man, the hard work, being accepted, been anxious, not being a boy anymore but also not a man yet. I really hope he has found his place to be.

 

I met this Himba boy at the Epupa Falls Village. He was part of a teenager group all wearing the typical Himba hair style at their age. Besides the hair special attention should be paid to the different necklaces; both are just two typical examples for their complex society. Shooting portraits I’m always looking for something special, which I almost only find afterwards. During these moments I’m not even checking any photograph in the camera, I’m just focus on the moment and the person in front of me…

 

faces of namibia portrait woman
faces of namibia portrait woman

 

Every day a portrait of an awesome person I had the honor to meet. I met this women at the filling station in Opuwo, the village the Himba named „no more“, no more space for non Himba. In these days planned as refill stopover planes, it is today the stopover for everyone who wants to go into the Kaokoveld. It is the one place where you can stock up and get safely Diesel. Opuwo definitely was not my kind o taste. Today looking at these pictures my feelings have changed. Today I’m able to understand their sufferings and challenges much better and I’m happy to see how proud they still are and should be.

 

faces of namibia portrait woman
faces of namibia portrait woman

 

Mineral dealer women close to Spitzkoppe. We always stop on our way to Spitzkoppe turning right from the D1918 onto the D3716 to buy some stones with water inclusions, one of the view places to buy them in Namibia, in the only country they are known. We are also trying to bring something to bargain like old Smartphone, iPads or Hiking Shoes and of course some food. It is always fun to stop there and a good chance to get easily in touch with a lot of people.

 

faces of namibia portrait guide moses
faces of namibia portrait guide moses

 

Thanks Moses for showing us the beautiful Hohenstein Fels, the highest mountain in Namibia. Thanks for hiking with us to the mineral miners. Thanks for fighting with an ostrich, which gave me the opportunity for one of my best wildlife shots ever. Thanks for introducing us to the miners, which gave me the opportunity for many portraits. Thanks for your kindness and hospitality. Hope you and your family are doing well. Hope to be able to see you soon Moses…

 

to be continued...




Eine Reise durch das Kaokoveld ist nicht die Einstiegertour in Namibia. Es dauert etwas, bis sich die Sinne bzgl. des eigenen Geschmacks geschärft haben und man abseits der ausgetretenen Routen zu suchen beginnt.

Das Kaokoveld ist mehr als eine Reise Wert, Namibias einsamer und wilder Nordwesten, ein unglaubliches und unbegreifliches Ökosystem, endlose Weite, unendliche Einsamkeit und in jeder Hinsicht besondere Menschen - das ist die sogenannte "Arid Eden Route" und nichts für Jedermann. 



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