The Himba

 

 

 

In 2002 Katrien and I travelled to South-Africa for 18 days. A rental car took us all the way from Cape Town to Johannesburg. Upon arrival in Johannesburg, we had travelled over 3,250 miles, a distance full of discoveries, joy and memorable experiences. A few personal highlights: Oudtshoorn, the Hluluwe wild game reserve, an unforgettable visit to the Zulu and of course... Kruger National Park where luck was on our side when we managed to see 'the big five'. It was an unforgettable journey. A trip on which I was stung by the 'Africa-bug': here I would come back , here I could spend the rest of my days. During one of our interesting encounters with other travellers from faraway countries, Namibia became the subject of conversation: according to our fellow-guests, there would be no match for this desolate country and nature ought to be even purer than in South Africa, with its unapproachable landscapes and abundance of wildlife.

Ultimately, in July 2004, we made a tour by rental car in Namibia, 'the pearl of Africa'. The beauty of this country is beyond words. After two days only, it felt as if my senses were to explode at any moment, insusceptible of more dazzling beauty ahead. If the only audible sound in miles is caused by some fish in a grateful and elegant greet to the sun that rises above a Pelican lake, one falls really silent. Silence is what you will discover in Namibia: you can hear the crack of any twig or leave by the slant of the desert wind in surrounding trees.

The summum of our journey was a visit to the Himba. Whithin this semi-nomadic tribe, people traditionally rub their skin with animal fat and ochre, resulting in a magnificent reddish glow under the desert sun. The Himba are undoubtedly among the most beautifiul people I have ever seen. The Himba turn you speechless. Katrien had to stop me, otherwise I would have dedicated our entire camera film to these splendid women and children.

Back in Belgium and still whole-heartedly amazed by this peerless beauty, I decided to find a way to share it: I went to the local stationer to buy painter's tools. My aim was to immortalize this unique red gleam and beauty of the Himba. Oil colour became the obvious choice: it felt right; the earthy characteristics of it linked up nicely with the Himba culture. When I wanted to pay for my oil starter set, the friendly cashier drew me into conversation: "How nice, you are going to paint... unfortunately I don't have spare time to do so myself". I made clear: "I have never painted before…" The lady promptly reacted: "Don't you need a painting medium?" I grew dizzy, never having heard of any painting medium. After a short explanation I understood that I wouldn't get too far without this solvent based on turpentine and lineseed oil. This unexpected meeting was of great value, as this fantastic lady would assist me later in the perfect choice of an appropriate frame for my first painting, 'The Himba woman' (18 x 24) , displayed on the main page of this website. It is hard to believe that I had never touched an artist's paintbrush before. It took me eight long days, applying heart and soul to it, but there she is: with secret amusement she smiles at me every day from the wall of my living room… Sometimes she's sad, sometimes she asks "What have you been up to?"

Judge for yourself...