Photos A young Himba woman, her body beautified with ocher and butterfat, attends the wedding festivities. Around her neck she wears a torque of copper wire bound by leather and packed with ocher and mud. This torque indicates her status as a married woman. The highly valued conch shell hanging from around her neck is worth as much as a young goat, and is traditionally passed down from mother to daughter.Himba families live in small temporary dwellings built from curved branches covered in mud. They periodically abandon these dwellings to search for pasture for their herds of sheep and goats, returning later in the year when rains have replenished the grass supply. Their natural environment provides them with everything they need for clothing, shelter sustenance, and adornment.On the day of the marriage, a group of women, headed by the wife of the chief and including the mothers of the betrothed and the bride, parade around a family compound in a snakelike formation. They approach each bystander in turn, asking for blessings and a small gift for the couple. Gifts are usually money, tobacco or ocher. If onlookers have nothing to give they place a stick or twig into the receiving hand as a gesture of goodwill. Approached by the line of women, a girl, at left, receives a good natured mocking because she has no gift to offer.The Himba groom sits secluded in a specially built nuptial hut. A female in-law comes to bless him by covering his talisman belt, shell pendant, and copper necklace with a mixture of chacoal and animal fat. In the tranquil darkness of her family hut, a mother prepares her daughter for marriage, giving her the treasured Ekori headdress. As the bride leaves her parental home, the front part of her headdress is rolled forward, allowing her to see straight ahead only, thus protecting her from the emotions of leaving her family. The bride wears the Ekori on her journey to her new home and must keep it on for the first month of married life.On the morning of the marriage, female friends apply a mixture of ocher, aromatic herbs, and perfumed butterfat to the Himba bride. A staple Himba cosmetic, this rich mixture provides protection from the sun, as well as beautifying the skin. The married women attending the bride wear the small, leather rosette headdress known as Erembe, which replaces the Ekori headdress after the first month of marriage.The Ondjongo dance forms the climax of Himba marriage ceremonies. In this classic courting dance the participants assume the roles of oxen and herders, with a view to figuratively hunting down prospective partners. Standing in a semi-circle facing a line of men, the women clap and chant, while one of them dances in the center in the manner of a 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.At the time of her marriage, a Himba bride is given a ceremonial headdress called Ekori.This headdress is made of the softest hides, decorated with iron beads, and covered with ocher and butterfat. Around her neck she wears a torque of copper wire bound by leather and packed with ocher and mud. To the sound of joyous chanting, an exuberant Himba girl leaps and twirls while women ululate their approval of her performance. This young woman is dancing the part of the predator in the Otjiunda, or calf enclosure dance. She will be surrounded by other dancing women who will try, without touching her, to chase her from the enclosure.A Himba mother parts the ocher-colored veil made of beads and twisted cord covering her daughter’s face.This veil is designed to conceal her face in public and indicates that the girl is no longer a child and is in transition to becoming a woman. To secure the bond with her ancestors, a Himba girl’s hair is lengthened with ancestral hair belonging to her mother or grandmother. Her hair is then twisted into long braids and rubbed with ash from the fire to secure the shape of the braid. Finally, the braids are covered with a mixture of ocher and animal fat.Female relatives of a Himba bride prepare for the wedding by tressing each other’s hair and applying ocher and perfumed butterfat to their bodies. A staple Himba cosmetic, this rich mixture not only beautifies the skin, but also provides protection from both the sun and the cold desert nights.Always the center 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.Brandishing their healing sticks, Katjambia and her assistants travel from village to village treating the sick and exorcising the posessed. Katjambia is the daughter of a renowned Himba headman, and one of the most respected healers living today. A striking six-foot-two-inch tall woman, she travels through the territory with a small team of assistants providing healing wherever it is needed.A gravely ill woman receives healing from renowned Himba healer, Katjambia. The Himba believe that all sickness is brought on either by a curse or a premature call from the ancestors to join them in the afterworld. The curse is said to be carried by a black dove-like bird that flies down from southern Angola.Katjambia and her assistants prepare a healing house, known as Otjitara, made of mopane wood poles painted with stripes of goat’s blood and charcoal paste. Inside the house will be a bench with a round plate containing white ash, two ritual necklaces and various talismans. This healing house will serve an individual suffering a severe health problem for his and her entire lifetime.Katjambia has been called to cure a woman with severe chest pains and internal bleeding. As the healing rites begin, Katjambia shakes her sacred calabash rattle at the afflicted woman to agitate the unwelcome spirit.At the climax of the healing, the woman emits several loud grunts, which Katjambia answers by calling out “Njoo Njoo,” words of a strange language believed to come from Angola. She identifies the curse as that of an ancestor who was killed by black magic and has come back to take revenge. The woman shakes with convulsions. Gradually, Katjambia relieves the woman of the malevolent spirit by absorbing it into her own body, leaving the woman calm and healed.Katjambia works to exorcise three women posessed by the spirit of a lion sent to them by their deceased husband. Killed by a lion himself, he has dispatched the spirit to bring his wives to join him in the afterworld.Surrounded by chanting healers, the posessed women exhibit all the savagary of the lion spirit that has taken hold of them. As Katjambia shakes her rattle to draw out the spirit, the lionposessed women bite wildly at it in a frenzied state.Totally posessed, the women are transformed into lions, they roar, growl, and lash out with their “claws,” crawling on all fours for several hours. They are under the spell of their husband’s call to join him in the afterworld.As the exorcism reaches its climax, one of the “lion women” squats with her claws outstretched (at left). Katjambia summons all of her powers to draw the lion spirit out of the woman. Her eyes roll back and she enters a trance, absorbing the evil force into her own body. The wild behaviour of the women gradually begins to subside. Forced into Katjambia’s body the lion spirit remains so powerful that she is unable to expel it, no matter how she tries.Brought to the ancestral fire by her assistants, Katjambia summons the force of three generations of healers embodied within the flames. The fire has burned continuously since it was first lit many centuries ago and its embers have been carried wherever the Himba moved. After six hours of chanting and praying to the ancestors for help, Katjambia reaches a state of total exhaustion. At two o’clock in the morning , a shaft of light miraculously flahes from her head and disappears into the darkness. Her body finally relaxes, and Katjambia, free of the lion spirit, silently lies down and sleeps. To our amazement, we managed to capture on film this moment of release.