The Ovahimba Years – Les années Ovahimba / Rina Sherman
A Tranversal Anthropography Study in Namibia and Angola
Une étude anthropographique transversale en Namibie et Angola
Home The Project Introduction Brief History Publications Films Exhibitions Photography Rétrospective Drawings Otjiherero Lexicon
The fonds The Ovahimba Years contains the multimedia documentation and data collected over seven years by Rina Sherman on the Ovahimba and other Otjiherero speaking communities in the Kunene Region, in north-western Namibia and the provinces of Cunene and Namibe in south-western Angola.
Film & Video
Sound recordings of some thirty hours of direct sound as a witness to daily and ritual life. The recordings reproduce interviews with traditional leaders, elders, various community members of Etanga and other communities in Angola. The topics are autobiographical and historical (oral tradition). The recordings include songs, music and other expressions.
Most recordings were recorded on DAT, and those that were recorded in analog were copied to DAT, some have been digitized.
Texts & Unpublished Notes
During her stay and during the continuation of her research on her return ot France, Rina Sherman has maintained an extensive correspondence with various people, friends and colleagues, as faxes, letters and notes sent by email.
Administrative & Production Papers
Presentation of the proposed research, conservation and film projects,funding applications, financing plans, quotes, etc.
During the some twelve years research on the Ovahimba and related peoples (fieldwork and upon here return), Rina Sherman has constituted a substantial collection of articles (copies), references to books and articles concerning Ovahimba studies and related topics.
Art Mbali funeral steles – Namibe
Some key aspects of cultural heritage Ovahimba
A Brief History
Tthe Otjiherero language speaking peoples are said to be originated from Okarundu kaMbeti, a hill north of Ruacana, a village on the Kunene River.
In the late 19th century, the neighboring Nama peoples undertook successive raids on the Ovahimba, forcing many of them to flee to Angola. At the time, the Portuguese administration had not yet established positions in these areas but exchange with the colonial economy was intense. Refugees worked on plantations, became guides for professional hunters or enlisted in the colonial army to fight against the indigenous rebellions. Some Ovahimba groups remained in the Kunene Region (Kaokoland) and have entrenched themselves in the mountains where they became gatherers (Ovatjimba).
In 1907, the German administration declared Kaokoland a nature reserve, thus preventing the settlement of white farmers. By 1910, communities of pastors-gatherers returned to the plains, where they developed the trade with the Ovambo kingdoms settled in the East. Between 1910 and 1920, several Ovahimba families returned to the region and settled near the graves of their ancestors.
The victory of the Allies (South Africa) over Germany in 1915 also encouraged their return. After the First World War, the South African authorities, newly mandated, claissified the region a tribal reserve, forcing settler families to move their herds to the south. This strengthening of borders was to create a separation between the tribal reserves and the commercial livestock area to prevent the spread of disease. This measure forbade all trade with the Ovahimba and cut them off entirely from the outside world.
In 1927, the Ovahimba were the dominant group in Kaokoland. Based on the ovahona system, the South African government appointed chiefs to create a system of indirect control. In an inspection report on the Nature Reserve of Kaokoveld, dated October 10, 1949, an Omuhimba chief is quoted: "We are in trouble. We cry. "We are imprisoned. "We do not know why we are trapped. "We are in a prison. "We have no place to live ... "In the past, the Ovahimba moved freely in southern Angola and northwestern Namibia according to their grazing needs, crossing the "Kunene River border between the two countries.
Since the early eighties, Kaokoveld has experienced an unprecedented influx of tourists, which has naturally generated changes in eating habits and aspirations of residents, reinforcing a taste for Western food, such as sugar, coffee, as well as addictive substances such as tobacco and alcohol.
After the independence of Namibia in 1990, followed by the first free elections in South Africa, in 1994, began a new era in Southern Africa. "During the colonial period, the successive administrations did not only control the material resources of the region, they also sought to dominate the minds of indigenous peoples. "The origin of racial segregation is based on assigning an often arbitrary identity in terms of racial or ethnic affiliations. "These identities have formed the basis of a political system and a spatial order. "In this context, the word "tradition" meant that skin color and cultural specific provision had been allocated to an individual for life.
Over the past two decades, a dam project at the Epupa Falls on the Kunene River, with the aim of avoiding future power shortages in Namibia, has generated considerable controversy. "The construction of this dam will cause flooding of the natural site of Epupa Falls and the surrounding areas, causing the disappearance of Ovahimba pastures, their sacred lands and their ancestral graves.
The traditional lifestyle of Ovahimba is likely to change, even if the economy Kaokoveld, based on livestock, will be maintained for the times ahead. Currently, the number of livestock has been restored to what it was before the recent drought years. In this pastoral society, the cult of cattle is the dominant cultural discourse. The Ovahimba say that if someone does not have cattle, and a family member dies, he will not be able to sacrifice an animal in honor of the deceased. The Ovahimba grow corn, but they say: "You can not drive the corn," as opposed to their lifestyle of driving cattle.
The notion of Ovahimba identity is at least in part the result of the colonial system of racial segregation. Before independence in 1990, the writing of history was controlled and censored by the South African government. Despite this, throughout the colonial period, Namibians continued to transmit the memory of their ancestors in the form of oral legends, songs of praise and sung autobiographies. "The "myth of Kaoko" continued to deliver information about these peoples, in many fields, including anthropology. Despite a tendency to represent the material culture of these peoples in strictly aesthetic terms, especially that of the Ovahimba with its spectacular exotic dimension.
What about the future of the Ovahimba? The Ovahimba have maintained their traditions for centuries, they live high up in arid and mountainous regions, but they have reached a crossroads between their ancestral culture and the rapid arrival of urbanism.
Whatever choices they will make or whateverchoices will be imposed by progress and development, their culture will undergo major changes in coming years.
Otjiherero, also known as or ochiherero is a Bantu language spoken by the Ovahimba, Ovaherero, Ovakuvale, Oadhimba and other related peoples, living in large parts of Namibia and Angola, and also in Botswana and in Angola. The number of speakers totals about 200 000 people.
From 1997 to 2004, Rina Sherman lived with the Headman of Etanga's family at their domain located on the hill of oHere in the northwest of the Kunene region in Namibia.
Genesis of the Project
Rina Sherman is commissioner of Jean Rouch's Southern African University Tour(University of Durban-Westville, Durban, Cape Town, Witwatersrand and Namibia).
In 1997. Paris. Conceptualization and formulation of a research a long-term multi-disciplinary study of the cultural heritage of the Ovahimba people.
In 1998. Windhoek. Formulation of the research program including a dimension of community development in partnership with community members. Rina Sherman moved to Opuwo for several months and began trips to remote areas to identify a community with which to base the project. The head of Etanga agrees to welcome her in his region (Etanga and its outlying areas). Rina Sherman settled in the family of the family Tjambiru Etanga. A base camp was built and the study of the daily life of Ovahimba began.
In 1999. Etanga. Filming, photographing, making audio recordings and written documentation. Rina Sherman learned to speak Otjiherero, the language of the Ovahimba. Training in research techniques for project assistants. First participation in community development: supported for the installation of water Etanga with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, of the Namibia Association of Norway, the Ford Foundation and several private sponsors.
In 2000. Etanga. Continued collection of multidisciplinary data, training of assistants. Transcripts of text and video images. Regular excursions into rural areas North and South: Otjinungwa, Omatjivingo, Embuende, Otjitanda, Owozonduuombe, Wakapawe, Ekoto, Kaoko Otavi-etc. Participation in the development of the rest camp in partnership with Etanga Nolidep (Northern Livestock Development Project). Searching of funds for community development. Funding from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ford Foundation and several private sponsors.
In 2001. Rina Sherman decided to settle the project base in Windhoek, both to ensure proper storage of data collected in the field and to be near Etanga. Spanish Cooperation and other donors provided assistance to the school in Etanga with educational materials and basic equipment. Rina Sherman undertook numerous trips to Etanga, collecting data and beginning to process and catalog those previously collected. The project "The Ovahimba Years" agrees to participate on a voluntary basis to develop a community resource center in Etanga. The German Embassy, the British High Commission and the French Service for Cooperation and Cultural agree to grant assistance for this project. Financial assistance from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ford Foundation, Caltex, Standard Bank and several private sponsors.
Continuation of data processing: a first inventory of materials collected, writing, editing, cataloging, creation of a photographic collection. From June 75 to 28, exhibit "Ovahimba Years: Work in Progress" at the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre in Windhoek. First major presentation of the results after five years of research, the exhibition is presented as a series of soundscapes, punctuated by exhibitions of photographs, drawings, cultural objects, texts and, in parallel, A group of young people from Etanga participate in the exhibition as spokespersons for their culture and holds Ovahimba dance performances. A film is made on this exhibition. Rina Sherman returns several times to Etanga, another trip is scheduled before the end of the year. Spanish Cooperation commits to helping the new primary school in Etanga with equipment and materials. EU grant funding for the construction of the Community Resource Centre Etanga. The NAMSOV fishing Company undertakes to finance construction of the Community Resource Centre in Etanga. Participation of French volunteers in the data processing and the preparation of "The Ovahimba Years" Collection. Preparation of the first publication of texts and a series of essays entitled "Tales from the Ongumbati". Financial assistance from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ford Foundation, Caltex, Standard Bank and several private sponsors continues.
Further processing of data: inventory of materials collected, writing, editing, cataloging, photographic collection. New research in the field. Continuation of community development projects: the construction of the Community Resource Centre Etanga. Preparation of the initial implementation of the training and management center for community members of Etanga. Initial Preparation: resettlement project in Paris in September 2003 for the final data processing from the Collection "The Ovahimba Years", a series of films, texts, drawings, photographic catalog, etc. then research for new exhibits at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, London and the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, including the presence of the Youth Group of Etanga. Creating a research agreement between the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the systems of thought in Black Africa-CNRS research laboratory EPHE, University of Namibia and "The Ovahimba Years." Proposal for a Thematic Evening for Arte based on the idea of a sojourn in Etanga.
2004 to 2012. Data processing, the establishment of a complete inventory of recorded material. Publication and distribution of the collection "The Ovahimba Years" (a collection of films, texts, drawings, and a photographic catalog).
2075 Retrospective of The Ovahimba Years film collection at the Quai Branly museum in Paris.