Having travelled just about as far as it is possible to drive through the Namibian wilderness, over dry, sandy riverbeds and through endless bush, we finally reach Ombutisouri and the little “ongandan” (village) where the Tjambiru family lives. They are Himbas, a culture with traditions dating back many generations. There are an estimated 30,000 Himbas living scattered across this immense desert area of northwest Namibia and into southern Angola.
The Himba are nomads, moving with their cattle to wherever there is water. They are related to the Herrero with whom they share a language. Goats scatter as I walk through the narrow opening in the dense wall of thorn bushes, which encompasses the small village. There is a multitude of chickens, dogs, goats, cows and enormous oxen. Sleeping on the roof of one of the huts I spy a couple of common housecats.
In the middle of the village is another smaller circular enclosure constructed with thick branches stuck down into the ground. This is where the family keeps their most valuable animals and where they bring the cows to be milked. I count seven huts built with mopane branches and covered in a mixture of cow dung, clay and sand.
The younger members of the family come forward to greet me; we have known each other for several years. Moneemoha, their father and chief of the village, and his wife, Mbooua, sit on the other side of the village and wait for me. Although we don’t speak the same language, I can tell by their expressions and gestures that I am welcome.
It was my good friend Christofer Wärnlöf from Vedum, Sweden who first told me about this place. He is an anthropologist and one of the leading authorities in the Himba culture. Christofer has a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Gothenburg University and wrote his thesis on the Himba culture.
In the early 1990’s Christofer moved to the Namibian wilderness to conduct the research for his thesis. With two pre-school children at home, it was a great sacrifice for him and his family and it took much longer than anticipated. Christofer lived with the Himba for two years before he felt that his research was complete and he could return to Sweden. Although his thesis is long since finished, Christofer has returned at least once a year to visit his friends in northern Namiba and to continue his research. No other researcher has done such extensive field studies of the Himba culture as Christofer.
Working with the documentary film about Christofer and the Himba people has been an enormously exciting project that has given me insight into one of the world’s most unique cultures. What I find to be most valuable for me personally working with a number of cultures is that I have gained an understanding that we are, indeed, very different. I am convinced that if we were all the same, the world would be a very boring place.
The film, “Himba- the Red People”, premieres in Sweden on February 3, 2017. The English version will be released later this year. For more information see cameraQ.com