Antoine Lorgnier - Photographs

Beauty lesson from the Himbas

The Kaokoland, located in northern Namibia at the border with Angola, is home to one of the most beautiful people in the world. Here are these legendary Himbas. People of semi nomadic pastoralists, the Himbas are mainly devoted to their cattle. It is such an important part of their life that the most beautiful compliment that can be given to a woman is to whisper in her ear that she looks like a little red cow! “A Himba without a herd is not a Himba” …

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Besides, the beautiful mahogany shade with which they adorn their bodies is reminiscent of the dress of their favorite animal. Beauty rituals are immutable every day. Women take hematite, a red stone that must be extracted once a month from a local quarry when you don’t buy it, and reduce it to the finest possible powder. Then it is mixed with animal fat formerly kept in a horn. In the privacy of their hut, women coat themselves from the head (including hair) to the feet of this ointment which makes their skin silky and protects them from the sun’s rays and insects. Then comes the dressing … The goatskin skirts pleated on the buttocks reveal just the top of the thighs. Every day, the garment is greased to prevent it from hardening and making walking uncomfortable. Then, a small brazier is lit, some odorous plants are placed there (wood from mopane trees, any other perfume is prohibited) and the whole is topped with a cone of branches on which the skirt is placed. It is the Himba pressing !

Then, it’s jewelry’s turn. Heavy necklaces adorn the woman’s neck. When it has a shell, it is a sign of fertility and indicates that they are of reproductive age. Among the other characteristics of the ethnic group, hairstyles. Each means something and therefore has a different name. Women first braid their hair before coating it with an ocher mixture called “otjize”. Before puberty, girls are only allowed two braids, the number increases past puberty. Then comes the erembe, a goatskin headdress worn by married women while the ekori is worn for marriage or ceremonies. The role of women is therefore essential within this community which fights to preserve its ancestral traditions. A lifestyle unchanged since the dawn of time.

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