In October 2019 we were traveling from Windhoek Namibia to the Northwest in our 4x4. We wanted to reach the Himba tribe area on our own at least by car and not by plane.
For years it is my wish to travel to the Himba and to spent some time with them to have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their traditional live and document their actual struggle between a modern society, alcohol, tourists, droughts as a result of climate changes and the internet and how this affecting their culture and what are the changes.
It is astonishing, many of them are still living a completely traditional live and many of them decided to move to permanent villages close to tourist routes and start a different live with classical jobs, if possible...
portrait photography - himba portrait series
I wanted to start my documentary with a classical family photo in front of their house. The man is proud of his family, his two wives and four children and of course of their huts and their goats.
For Europeans this photo documents the difference between a Himba family and a European family - not judging from my perspective, but hoping that the observer judges based on his prejudices before he starts to realize what he is doing and starts to reconsider moving on to the next photographs, hopefully thinking and reconsidering all the time while contemplating this photographs.
This man deeply impressed me with his self confidence and friendly open nature. Therefore I wanted to give him some more space without his family to give the observer the opportunity to understand how deeply happy he his, prosperous in any way besides money, which is mainly irrelevant for his happiness.
His wife was also very proud, proud in another way - proud of her appearance, her hair, her traditional headdress and her bracelets and the traditional meaning.
Having understood the Himba culture just a tiny bit, you can read from what she is wearing that she is a married women with kids. Tradition is very important for the Himba and this Himba women gives me that feeling.
His wife is shaving the head of her husband a very intime and traditional moment. Married husbands always have a bald head and wear a traditional cap. It is the wife obligation to shave the head and show everybody else that they are married. As a Himba man is allowed to have more than one women and this normally the case, depending on how much goats and cattle he owns...
Having many Children is the most important task for every Himba women. Status for man is defined by their cattle, goats, wife and children. The status for women is defined by children.
It is very important for women to find a man and have children and the basic is their traditional appearance, especially their hair. This young women had some bad hair problems and had to shave her hair, a nightmare for her, as no man is interested any longer until she has her traditional hair back again.
It took me quite a while to gain her trust as she was so insecure because of her missing hair.
This women is a proud women, she is one of the chiefs wifes. Everything shows I´m a proud women, her whole body language, but especially her view. As the chiefs wife she is the informal leader of the women of the tribe. You can feel the vibes in the air between the women and her, every other women is silently orientated to her.
Himba are most proud of their kids, but it is hard as not every kid survives childhood, it definitely feels like survival of the fittest and even the very young children do have some wisdom in their glance.
Most of them have never seen a real picture of themself. It is very touching observing them while they realize that this photograph show them.
Younger children are very orientated to their mother as in most cultures on our world. This changes pretty fast with the next child of their mother. Of course she loves them all, but in a big family everybody as to grow up pretty soon and take responsibility for their younger brothers and sisters.
This young Himba women, who is in the transition from a teenager to getting married and having children was one of the most impressing Himba I met during my journey.
Her eyes are so full of curiosity and intelligence and therefore it is her who comes closer to me and not the other women and starts playing with the camera. It is a miracle for me that they are still this curious as their daily life is in many ways very much based on repetitive routines.
These group of young women were dancing and singing at the shore of the Kunene river at Epupa Falls. It is a typical scene of their traditional life which is characterised by their clothes, bracelets and hair performing traditional dances and singing traditional songs.
The Kunene river is the natural boarder between Namibia and Angola. In the past nobody cared that Himba live on both sides in their natural territory. Since then the Himba don't care if they are in Angola or Namibia, the Kunene is just a river for them.
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