The Ovahimba Years – Les années Ovahimba / Rina Sherman
A Tranversal Anthropography Study in Namibia and Angola
Une étude anthropographique transversale en Namibie et Angola
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In Development

Autour des Ovahimba – About the Ovahimba

Ovahimba Exchange Visit – Visite d'échanges Ovahimba

Échanges de savoir-faire – Collection de films – Expo photo Livre


Les années Ovahimba The Ovahimba Years

Europe  France – Namibia Africa


A group of young people from Namibia participates in a series of knowledge exchange sessions and workshops in France. The young Ovahimba people from the Kunene Region of Namibia shares aspects of their cultural heritage with French experts and the public at large.


Their desire to share their culture and to discover Paris and France emanates from the seven-year stay of anthropologist and filmmaker Rina Sherman in Etanga, a village in the Kunene North Regions of Namibia.


Half way through her sojourn in Etanga, Rina Sherman presented a multimedia exhibition Work-in-Progress at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre in Windhoek in which a group of young Ovahimba people participated as spokespeople for their culture. Following the exhibition, they decided that the next destination for their culture would take place at Rina's home, that is to say, Paris!

Objectives of the Ovahimba Exchange Visit

1.  To enable the group of young Namibians to share elements of their cultural heritage with French experts and the public at large.

2.  To allow an encounter between Namibian and French expertise in various fields of knowledge.

3.  To make aspects of their cultural heritage known to the French public at large.

4.  To facilitate the creation of long-term links and ties between Namibian and French communities.

Cultural Heritage

Namibia presents a vast array of cultural life, heritage and knowledge systems. As an integral part of this rich palette of cultural expression, the Ovahimba people have preserved the traditions of former generations such as livestock farming, oral transmission and an elaborate system of thinking, to mention but a few varying areas of expertise.

Exchange of Knowledge – Echanges de savoir-faire

The sharing of knowledge and experience between people of different cultures is enriching for all concerned. The Ovahimba knowledge system includes a wide variety of areas of expertise, such as praise transmission, a scope of musical expression that includes song, dance, instrument making, artistic craft work including materials such as leather, wood, iron and basketry. Their life knowledge acumen include expertise in livestock breeding, grazing management and plant knowledge in a range of different applications.


Public Information

Beyond the initial curiosity people generally have for other societies, the richness of the Ovahimba cultural heritage is largely unknown to the public at large, and specifically to the French public. The Exchange Visit project provides an opportunity for expert exchange and the diffusion of cultural knowledge and education to the public at large by means of presentation, exhibition, performance and informal visits.


The Exchange Visit could be the first of a series of cultural, educational, and economic and tourist ties between France and the Ovahimba and other communities of Namibia. Forms of exchange that could provide a platform for the creation of longer-term interactions would be to establish a twinning of Etanga with a French town, exchange visits between Ovahimba and French cattle farmers and the promotion of community based tourism and community based arts and crafts manufacture and marketing.

Project Implementation

The Ovahimba Exchange Visit will take place over a period of approximately two weeks and will include a range of activities such as a series of knowledge exchange workshops, public presentations of workshop results, performances, film screenings, a photographic exhibition and conferences.

An Otjiherero l French translator will accompany the group from Etanga in order to facilitate communication at all times. Rina Sherman will accompany the group throughout their visit to assist with coordination and logistics.

The programme of their sojourn in France will include decentralised visits to specialised institutions, such as agricultural colleges, art and design schools and music schools, as well as neighbourhood schools in and around Paris or another designated location for the exhibition and workshops. A special visit to a beef-raising region, such as Auvergne (Charolais), could be organised to allow the Namibians to experience local farming practices.

The group would be housed at a suitable institution, university residence or hotel. Rina Sherman will stay with them throughout and accompany them in their daily activities.

Possible workshops

Local experts will be invited to conduct workshops with the Ovahimba group. Such workshops could result in public performances, conferences and showcase presentations.

A contemporary dancer, choreographer or dance troupe:
Explorations of the movements of Ovahimba dance, including the meaning and its integration in everyday and ceremonial life. The workshop could result in a common public dance presentation.


A singer or music group:

An exploration of the harmonies, rhythmic cycles, vocal inflections, praises, which would result in a common public performance.

A musician or musical ensemble:
Different forms of music and their function in everyday and ceremonial life, the manufacturing of instruments (outa, embuita, etc.).

Arts and Crafts:
A jeweller or a designer working with organic materials, an exploration of rural and urban techniques in the use of found materials. The meaning of Ovahimba jewellery and clothing.

A historian. The different forms and obligations of knowledge and information transmission. News and history in the oral and written traditions. Forms of narration and writing.


A linguist. Analyses of the Otjiherero language. The use of metaphor in everyday and ceremonial speech practices. Praise as an example of coded information and historical transmission.

A designer. An exploration of the variety in Ovahimba clothing expression: rites of passage, tradition, male youth fashion versus urban youth street fashion. A shared experience in creation and design.

A French cook. Sharing the French and Ovahimba cuisine experience. Different meat preparation recipes. The use of herbs and plants in cooking.

Livestock farming
A Farmer or association of farmers. Cattle, sheep, goats. Livestock breeding techniques and research. Grazing management. A visit to a cattle farm.

A hair designer. Male and female hairstyling methods within the Ovahimba culture throughout the various ages of the individual. A shared creation workshop.

A pharmacist or researcher. A sharing of knowledge of edible, healing and poisonous plants. Presentation of fodder walks filmed in Etanga and Wakapawe with the participation of Nolidep (Opuwo). An analysis of plant samples (Institut Pasteur).

Social Organisation: Family, Heritage, Metaphysics, Law
An ethnologist, a sociologist, a layer, a religious representative. Family organisation, education, transmission of tradition, spirituality, belief systems, customary and national law practices.

An architect. The construction of a homestead and its spiritual representation. The nuclear versus the extended family. The notion of space and time.

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