We were heading for Purros – a Himba settlement upstream on the Hoarusib River. As we rounded the hills one could tell that we were about to see “life”. Large Acacia erioloba lined the valley and there were grass-covered slopes on either side.
Other than the Maasai and Samburu, the Himba are probably the only other intact culture remaining in Africa. Originally part of a larger tribe, now the Herero, the Himba became isolated following the missionary invasion which, in true Victorian fashion, successfully convinced the southern group into dressing more modestly (in fact they took it a step further and still wear huge dresses with crinoline petticoats underneath). The northern clan, the Himba, remain proudly bare breasted and the women smother their bodies in a mixture of red ochre, fat and aromatic plant resins and must have some of the smoothest glossiest skin I’ve ever seen. They sport unusual headdresses to indicate they are married and wear goatskin skirts) and ostrich shell jewelry.
We visited in the late afternoon, the low sun lending a golden color to the women’s already lustrous skin. We went away loaded with baskets and carved Makalane palm nuts.