In the 40 years that I have been working and traveling around the world I have come across people living in all kinds conditions. A safe and comfortable life is not guaranteed no matter where in the world you live. Many people desire every comfort available, while some choose to live a different life. The Himba people of northwest Namibia are a culture where many members choose to live far from the modern conveniences most of us take for granted.
If you drive 740 km north from Windhoek, you’ll come to the Himba capital city, Opuwo. At first glance it’s a rather insignificant, dusty and dirty town, but when you notice the people on the street, it’s a cultural kaleidoscope. Men in suits; women in large, colorful dresses; teenagers in jeans and T-shirts; and women with reddish skin dressed in short leather skirts and with their ample breasts exposed for all the world to see. That’s when you know you’re in Himbaland!
The first time I was grocery shopping in Opuwo I stood in line at the checkout stand behind a man in a suit and a barefoot, bare breasted, red Himba woman. No one – not the girl at the cash register, not the businessman or anyone else – batted an eye or raised an eyebrow. It was just a common occurrence in this uncommon town.
There are many things to experience in Opuwo but after stocking up at the grocery store I drove west along a gravel road about 110 km to Etanga. From there I continued a couple more hours through the wilderness where the roads are barely distinguishable, until I come to the small onganda where some of our friends live. We have been working with these people since 2013, filming their daily lives. That film premieres in Sweden on February 3-6, 2017.
Next week I’ll write more about the fascinating Himba people and about Dr. Christofer Wärnlöf who lived with them for several years and has studied the Himba culture for over 25 years.
My name is Stefan Quinth and I am a wildlife/documentary filmmaker. I’ve actually never been anything else. Well, except for the time I worked as a freelance journalist from 8th grade through high school. I wrote for local newspapers and sometimes had as many as four or five articles a day. I loved to tell stories and found it quite fulfilling to write about things I felt were important. But then, all of a sudden, a new media opened up to me–television.
I was 17 when I made my first film and sold it to Swedish Television. I mailed the film on a Tuesday and the very next morning the telephone rang. A woman on the other end asked very politely if they could please buy my film. No television company has every purchased a film from us that quickly since then – it was definitely a record, possibly a world record – but it convinced me that film is a great way to tell stories.
Working with film, music, or any other art form is exciting and when your artwork, in my case a film, is premiered and the audience reacts with laughter or tears at the right moment, it makes it all worth the effort. Few people realize just how much work goes into producing a film. I was packing up my equipment after showing a film somewhere in southern Sweden when an older woman approached me and complimented me on the film. I always enjoy interacting with my audience. The woman stood there for a moment more, eyeing me quizzically, before she asked, “But do you have a real job?”
I suppose it’s a valid question–even though I have produced hundreds of films for television, numerous educational films about geography and cultures, and many other films for various organizations. Can you really have this much fun and still call it a work? When I visit schools or universities to show films and talk about wildlife, nature or cultures, students will approach me and say, “You must have the greatest job in the world!” I would have to agree. Being a wildlife/documentary filmmaker is probably the greatest job you could have.
In future blogs I’ll tell you stories about a wonderful world, a world worth fighting for.