Earlier this year, Sussan Mourad travelled to Namibia with the World Nomads film crew to explore Namibia. This is her story...
My experience of meeting the beautiful people of the nomadic Namibian Himba Tribe definitely was one of the most extraordinary, awe-inspiring and out of this world experiences I have ever had.
Before meeting the Himba I was so excited about the experience but also a little nervous. You see, thinking about meeting a nomadic Namibian tribe is one thing. However, travelling for hours by small plane into the depths of Namibia, walking into a Himba village and then asking the Tribe's Chief for permission to enter is something altogether different when you're actually doing it! But it’s for these moments we travel and on which I thrive.
In my mind I thought that I would arrive to the Himba village super-charged and celebrating, as naturally I’m a pretty high-energy person. Although part of me was feeling this on the inside, I was completely out of my comfort zone when walking into the village and feeling like such an outsider when coming up close to this striking group of people. All of a sudden I felt the need to be more observant and attentive going into such an unfamiliar environment.
It was then I met an unforgettable woman I called the 'Mamma' of the tribe who was the Chief's oldest and first wife. The power of our energy, warmth, eye contact and smiles created a bridge through our barriers as I managed to build a strong connection with Mamma through body language. In turn she opened her heart and tribe for the incredible transformation and tribal experience that followed.
After Mamma taught me about the significance of the red ochre and fat ointment that the Himba women smear on their skin and their traditional dress, I eagerly asked Mamma if the tribe’s women would transform me into a Himba woman for the day. Before I knew it I was in a cow dung hut with a Himba woman smearing Himba ointment onto my skin and adorning me in ornate jewelry and animal hides. As a self-confessed ‘dress-ups’ enthusiast, this took my passion for costume to a whole new level. As the Himba woman started to remove her own pieces of jewelry to place them on me, it was a really powerful moment where I felt grateful and blessed. I knew that I had been let into something that was really special and sacred.
Emerging from the hut completely transformed, Mamma and the other women were amazed at my transformation and seemed to be enjoying the experience almost as much as I was. They were smiling, laughing and nodding in approval. I was so honoured that they allowed me to have such a special experience. At this point I felt so immersed in the Himba culture. The barriers of language and our cultures seemed to no longer exist. I couldn’t believe what was happening. I stepped right into a world that I read about from a distance and now I was actually part of it, even if just for an afternoon.
At that point a group of the tribe's women took me amongst them and spontaneously started to sing and dance. I can still distinctly remember their voices and the sounds they were making, sounds my ears had never heard before... the way they were stamping their feet as I tried to copy and follow... the way they moved their bodies and used their outfits as they danced. This is a moment and experience I will never forget and is by far one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had in my life! That day, singing, dancing, being immersed into this nomadic tribal culture, the Himba took me to a place I couldn't have even dreamed of. I was so lost in the moment...the best kind of lost. It was magic.
*Note: Being invited into a Himba village and being dressed like a Himba woman is not a common occurance in Namibia and certainly is not a tourist attraction.
Want to see more of Sussan's experience with the Himba tribe in Namibia? Check out her beautiful photo essay on Fotopedia.
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