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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Discover two unique namibian tribes

Even though they share the same ancestor, the Himba and the Herero people constitute two unique Namibian tribes different from one another, yet united in so many ways. In this story, Lisa Eldrige shares with us her experience meeting with women from two tribes in Namibia.

Lisa Eldrige meeting a Herero lady in traditional dress
The Himba tribe. The members of the Himba tribe have a semi-nomadic lifestyle. The Himba tribe lives  in the Kaokoveld region of Namibia. I heard that they regularly visit the town of Swakopmund to sell their hand-made jewelry. So I hoped to be lucky enough to meet them during my visit in Namibia. Having read about the Himba tribe, I was intrigued to meet the women. The women of the Himba tribe are known for covering their bodies and hair in red ocre, and they are admired for their unique beauty.

Himba ladies sitting patiently to well their hand-made jewellery

Walking around the German town, I could see a small group of women with red deadlocked hair and goat-skin loin cloths. My heart began to race.  As much as I had read about this tribe,  I was unaware of how their reddish appearance could be so striking. 

I had already seen pictures of them in books, and here I was, standing right in front of them. I was star-struck, unable to communicate.  One by one, they tied a bracelet around my wrists, then another, until my arms were covered in the same red powdery stain as theirs. All the time speaking among themselves in a language that I could not comprehend.

The Heroro tribe. The Himba and the Heroro are all descendants of a common ancestor in East Africa. The original tribe was segregated two centuries before and many moved South and settled as cattle ranchers, becoming known as the Herero tribe.

The Himba tribe was a far cry from the Herero tribe  I had encountered just a day before.  The members of the Herero tribe adorned themselves in Victorian dresses and pointed hats while living in modern houses in the townships.  Upon arrival of the missionaries, the Herero tribe were encouraged to wear the clothes of that era, and wore victorian dresses and cow-horn hats, which have become their tribal landmark.

A Herero lady stands proud in her green victorian dress

The women of both tribes, the Himba and the Heroro, welcomed me with warm smiles while given me a glimpse into the strength of their culture: the Himbas have overcame the adversity to maintain their traditional way of life whereas the Hereros, once nomadic, have preserved their way of life despite German rule.


Africa, The Motherland. Could these really be the same people? One tribe seemed so primal and the other so Victorian.  They spoke the same Bantu language and shared the same holy fire custom yet were so different. This is probably why  I am fascinated by Africa, by its people and its diversity of culture. A history of Apartheid, slavery and homogeneous tribes. Certainly, Africa is where mankind is thought to have begun. 400,000 years after the emergence of Homo sapiens, this continent still holds an aura of mystery and fascination.

This story was originally written by Lisa Eldridge
Lisa Eldridge is a freelance journalist with work published in different media outlets such as Wanderlust, Sunday Times Travel and Real Travel magazine. Her background in the travel industry fuelled her passion to see the world and since the age of twenty one, she has travelled extensively as a solo traveller. Lisa has just completed her Masters Degree in Creative Writing and is currently working on a website aimed at solo woman travellers. Follow her adventures around the globe here.