Portfolio - Himba wedding
The Himba people in North Namibia are among the most photogenic tribes on the planet. In this stunning series of images, photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher record the anticipation and joy surrounding a wedding in Kaokoland.


ImageBeckwith and Fisher have dedicated their lives to recording the traditional cultures of Africa and have been given the United Nations Award of Excellence for their vision and understanding of the role of cultural traditions in the pursuit of peace in the world. The Wall Street Journal wrote: “These two western women have gone further and deeper into tribal Africa than any photographers have before.”


1 In the tranquil darkness of her family hut, a young Himba bride is lovingly prepared by her mother for marriage. Her skin and hair are smeared with a mixture of ochre, aromatic herbs and butterfat, and she is adorned with an array of jewellery made from beaten iron beads. Her mother gives her a ceremonial headdress called ekori. With the front coil of her ekori rolled forward as she leaves her parental home, the bride can only see straight ahead, and is thus protected from the emotions of leaving her family. Made from the finest hide and passed down from generation to generation, the ekori is traditionally worn by brides on their journeys to their new homes, and kept on for the first month of married life.


2 Parading around a family compound in a snakelike formation, a group of Himba women, headed by the wife of the chief and including the mothers of the betrothed and the bride, approach each bystander in turn, asking for blessings and a small gift for the couple. Gifts are usually money, tobacco or ochre. If onlookers have nothing to give, they place a stick or twig into the receiving hand as a gesture of goodwill. 


3 Always the centre of attention, Himba babies from Namibia are never left on their own and are carried everywhere in a hide back-sling, or on the hip of their mother or caretaker. The pastoral Himba regard their offspring as a great blessing, and even a cattle-rich man is not considered truly wealthy until he has many children and grandchildren.


4 The whirling Ondjongo dance forms the climax of a Himba marriage ceremony. In this classic courting dance the participants assume the roles of oxen and herders, with a view to figuratively hunting down prospective partners. To the joyous sound of chanting, an exuberant girl leaps and twirls in honour of the bride, while women ululate their approval of her strength and agility.


5 As the Ondjongo dance continues, the women standing in a semicircle facing a line of men clap and chant, while one of them dances in the centre in the manner of her favourite cow. With her arms raised to imitate horns, the woman stamps her feet as though they were hooves and struts in time to the clapping.

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