Himba women use red ochre paste on their skin and hair

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Escorted Visits to a Himba Kraal

Many of Namibia's most striking images, recognised world-wide, show the beautiful Himba people with their glowing red skin and intricate adornments.

Kaokoland is home to a Himba population estimated at 12,000. Sadly, their traditional way of life, with its culture of strict rituals, is increasingly at risk from the attractions of 21st century technology and lifestyles, leading many to abandon their nomadic existence by moving to towns and adopting western dress, thereby becoming 'invisible' to travellers.

Jewellery, adornments and grooming are all important elements in Himba culture, with the women spending much of their time on beauty care - their unique full-body skin treatment which gives the flesh its characteristically intense, glowing red-brown colour. This treatment is also an effective sun-screen, and avoids frequent washing, which would waste precious water.

Historically, the Himba were pastoralist herdsmen travelling with their goats and cattle from one waterhole to another as the seasons or conditions dictated. Nowadays, their homesteads (kraals) tend to be more permanent.

The Himba people are proud yet friendly, but can take offence at well-meaning travellers who might inadvertently violate their customs. For this reason, and with their permission, we are allowed to escort small groups to a local kraal. There we can translate and help Guests to meet a family without embarrassment, revealing a unique insight into the history and culture of a centuries-old way of life which still survives, virtually unchanged, in this remote area. Photography is also allowed.