Namibia’s Himba people have walked the sands of northern Namibia for at least 6,000 years. We know this as their rock art at Twyfelfontein attests to their presence, their creativity, and their desire to make their mark on the landscape. The Himba are pastoralists, hunter gatherers, and one of the last nomadic populations in west Africa. To witness their culture and share in their way of life is inspiring.
In the past six millennia, life on Earth has change beyond all recognition. But in spite of this, in places there are remarkable lines of continuity. The Himba people, who live in Namibia’s northern regions, still walk in the footsteps of their ancient ancestors, raising livestock and counting their wealth in terms of head of cattle. Members of an extended family dwell in a single homestead, clothing is made from calfskin, and men and women alike decorate their skin with a mixture of butterfat and ochre. The patterns are aesthetically pleasing - the ochre symbolises the blood of life - and it is said to keep mosquitos at bay.
You can see the earliest vestiges of Himba culture at Twyfelfontein, a site of ancient rock carvings. These petroglyphs have been dated to 4,000 BC and are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are an estimated 5,000 carvings in the group, and it is thought that they were made for ritual purposes. Staying at Mowani Mountain Camp, just two hours’ drive away, you are ideally positioned to explore the site with a local guide, seeing the most impressive carvings and paintings and learning about their cultural significance to the Himba people.
The Himba have a living, breathing culture as well: it’s not just about the ancient past. The best way to appreciate this is to meet members of the Himba community, see how they live, and let them tell you about themselves in their own words. When you stay at Serra Cafema in the Namib Desert, you will have a chance to visit an isolated Himba community where they continue their traditional, semi-nomadic way of life. They will teach you about their fascinating lifestyle and customs.