Namibia borders with Angola, South Africa. Here, some huts made of wood and straw serve as homes for the Himba tribe. People of this tribe enjoy full equality of rights between men and women, and have specialized in tending livestock, especially goats. They live on what nature provides for them, and water is a scant luxury. Washing the body with water is considered wastage, and it is strictly prohibited. But paradoxically, Himba women were rated by researchers who have come here as some of the most beautiful in the world. Under the reddish paint covering their faces, we can observe the delicate skin, and their hair is shaped into some bizarre but attractive hairstyles.
As water is so precious, women have resorted to unique tricks to keep themselves clean and attractive. Red paint is worn all the time on the skin to protect them from the African sun and insect bites, which could equally affect their beauty and health.
The rest of their body, including private parts, is cleansed with smoke. The women mix fragrant herbs known only to them, throw it on the fire and allow the smoke from the smoldering fire to penetrate into their skin for a few minutes. Amazingly, nobody was ever sick because they don’t wash with soap and water.
Women’s hair is another element that distinguishes them from other tribes and makes them more beautiful. Impressive hairstyles are made using animal fat, paint, straw and mud. Creating this hairstyle may take up to a day, which is why women sleep with their head rested on a piece of wood that supports the neck, and the hair keeps its impeccable shape for a long time.
An unmarried girl usually wears two pigtails braided in a shape customary to the clan of her father. A few of them wear a single ponytail, which usually means they have a twin. If a girl wearing strands on her face, it means that she has reached puberty and must cover her face from men. Women who have been married for a year or have given birth wear animal skins. (Photographer Eric Laffourgue)
Himba is one of the most modern African tribes. They accepted government aid from Namibia in order to integrate into society, learn about nature protection and how to fertilize the soil, and to be able to send their children to study in schools – an idea adopted by the authorities as a solution to their development. On the other hand, the Himba kept some old traditions, especially in the domain of hygiene and beauty care, which may seem new and unimaginable according to the concepts of the modern world.