the falls

Himba children

Wedding Daze


EPUPA FALLS     It was rough roads most of the way along the Nambia / Angola border.c We stopped several times along the way since we were in Himba country.c Most of the villages were deserted. The Himba people roamed to follow grasses - something I saw very little of in Namibia. Fortunately, we saw scattered shepherds and they dressed (or undressed?) just like I'd seen in photos.

The Himba lived like they had forever, but it was more to do with economics rather than choice. They couldn't afford the luxuries they saw tourists owned. Our guide, Chris, took us to a few villages for a photo opportunity. But, he was very careful as we prepared. It would be expected to "pay" for the photos, but he didn't want us giving money, candy, or tobacco. (No money since it would only be used for alcohol, a growing problem with the Himba.) Instead, we bought gifts of coffee, sugar, and maize meal. Certainly, it was a great deal in my mind.

One of the more memorable sites was a wedding. Neither the bride nor groom could have been older than five. They were cousins. According to Chris, these kind of arranged marriages were common among the Himba. Chris, from the Herrero people, said that his family could also have arranged a child bride if his dad were still alive. He'd be honor bound to marry the girl - but he could have more than one wife. Having up to four was still a common practice.

I'd had such a positive experience in the area that I really didn't want to leave Epupa. I got up early to roam the village near our campsite. I took a few photos I really wanted so it was well worth the walk. The Himba near the campsite were friendly and fairly unspoiled. As we drove south, closer to "civilization", that wasn't the case. They wanted money - and not just a little - to have their pictures taken. In towns, women tried to sell the jewelry they wore while children begged. I wanted to go back to Epupa!

Copyright 2000 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.