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Himba - Benjamin Nalder Anthropology 101 Section 1 TA Jenna...

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Benjamin Nalder Anthropology 101 Section 1 TA Jenna March 25, 2008 A Peculiar People The Himba are a unique and even a peculiar people. I use this term in the utmost respect. They are truly a remarkable people set aside from what we consider modern society. Theirs is a world seeped in tradition and collective venture; an agricultural society of herdsmen. I knew very little of their lifestyle when I began my reading, but have since learned much and come to respect and admire their complex society and its intrinsic values. A world full of powerful spirits and dark magic, the Himba are mindful of the consequences to their actions and labor to appease both the god Mukuru, as well as their ancestors. In this imaginary world of sprits, omiti , and familial ties, the Himba live for the most part in peace, being governed by this suppression of individual desires for the benefit of the community . From the time a young member of the society is born, his or her life will be entrenched in this world of the Himba. The idea of conception and eventual birth of a child is a process rich in Himba culture and beliefs. According to Himba belief, both the mother and father contribute their respective fluids, forming the young child. If one parent contributes stronger fluid than the other, the child will resemble or have a similar disposition to that parent (Crandall, 53: 2000). The birth of twins is a particularly interesting case. It is believed that the mother of twins has exceptionally strong powers over not only over birth but also things such as the weather. As stated by the Himba in David Crandall’s book, “Human beings, Nature, and the Powers upholding the world mingle together and influence one another. Our conduct honors or offends these Powers, but the actions of a mother of twins are weightier. When dark, heavy clouds begin to drift across the sky at
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the beginning of the rainy season, ordinary people discuss the possibility of a storm. But the mother of twins must take charcoal and draw circle and crosses on her forehead and breasts so that the rain will fall. For though she has given birth to twins, she is still human, and her capacity to give life is nothing compared with the rain’s capacity.” (Crandall 52: 2000) The very act of birth is entrenched with tradition. The birth of a child is not only a physical process, but a moral one as well. If a woman is not faithful during her pregnancy, the seed of the foreign man will compete with the growing fetus and this struggle can delay the birth. Since the Himba do not have readily accessible modern medicine, much of the birthing process is tended to by the primitive, yet effective methods of the midwife handed down through generations. As labor ensues, the midwife is able to massage the child and appease its refusal to leave the mother’s womb. Katanga demonstrates this with the birth of Watumba’s son.
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