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Also, if for some freaky reason indigenous nudity bothers you, this post is not for you.
OK, here is the last part in my photo essay series on faces I encountered in northern Namibia during the filming of "African Witchfinder." I just like so many of them. In this current atmosphere (I'm writing in January 2017) where empathy for those different from us seems at an all-time low, I feel even more motivated to share the beauty of the human world -- the faces of kindness and joy, the extraordinary and the mundane, the faces of those who are confronted with the same fundamental challenges that we ALL are, irrespective of the differences in the clothes we wear, the houses we live in, our explanations for things which we don't understand.
As with Parts 1 and 2, there isn't much rhyme or reason to the order of these pics. They just sort of spill from my arms, or rather, my camera, onto the table for you. Something I tried recently was converting a few portraits into black and white. So l guess I'll present those first. And draw you in with the adorability of children ...
A few more black and whites. Chief Petrus' sister praising God that he recovered from his bewitchment (though for me, it's the little girl who steals the show in the photo); Chief Kapika's youngest wife; blind man at the Himba village near Epupa Falls.
Well, okay, let's just go ahead and stay in the Himba village. Some slices of daily life that I like.
A rare candid photo of Princess Kaviruru. Usually she is posing for photographs with the stoic "National Geographic" sort of "indigenous dignity" look ... which becomes her, for sure, but I like the few I captured of her as herself.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kaviruru and her mother privately to ask her some questions about her arranged marriage to the much-older white man, Koos. Although we had about an hour together, unfortunately it wasn't nearly enough time to learn much of what I was interested in. Going through a translator (Koos's adopted daughter) takes time, the Himba have a very slow way of talking anyway, with lots of pauses for thought, and a lot of answers to pretty simple questions I asked were replied to in more detail than I expected, so that all took a lot of time. There is the added trickiness that my translator basically sees Kaviruru as a foe, and does not want her adoptive father marrying the princess. So ... I have no way of knowing the accuracy of her translations of the answers I got from Kaviruru (nor indeed, of the questions put from me to her). I had hoped to film the interview, but Chief Kapika forbade any filming of his daughter.
In the end, though I didn't learn a lot of the details I would have liked to know regarding Kaviruru's feelings about the marriage and the man she's supposed to marry (also, this problem was compounded by her mother often answering for her, so I didn't get her own thoughts a lot of times, just her mother's), I came away with an insight into how the women in general in Himba society feel about arranged marriages. Certainly Kaviruru's mother has her own relevant feelings about the practice, since she was given to the chief to be his third wife and had no say in the matter. They both expressed a sort of pensiveness, something approaching melancholy but stopping short of it, over the lack of control over their own lives. But I've talked with women from cultures of arranged marriage in other countries and this is the most common attitude -- that it sure would be nice (sigh) to choose one's spouse because they're in love with them, but it's such a far-away notion, it seems so out of their reach, that they don't experience real sadness or regret, just an acceptance for the way things are. Not a bitter acceptance, merely acceptance. It's a romantic thought that they could just run away with a lover and live happily ever after, but their worlds don't work that way ... the hurdles to overcome, the ostracizing by their family and community. I'm sure it has happened occasionally, but for most girls and women, it is nothing but an idle daydream.
Kaviruru seems to have come around beyond just accepting her arrangement, to actually embracing it and embracing the man to whom she was promised at her birth. They are not married yet, but he courts her and brings her gifts.
Below, Kaviruru helping maintain her mother's high-maintenance hair.
The Himba children are so captivating. And as I mentioned in another post, I find myself particularly attracted to them now that I have learned about the insidious witchcraft culture that pervades the adult world. They are just so much more precious to me when I know how their lives will change from innocence in a world of smiles and play to one riddled with accusations and perpetual fear.
Kavango children ... same scenario of fragile joy and innocence soon to be shattered by the fear and jealousy that fuels the witchcraft machine. A couple of these I already posted as Friday Photos. But here they are again in a "Faces" post.
The two boys below crack me up, as they seem to be suffering a curious form of bewilderment. We were interviewing their grandparents about witchcraft when I took the photo. It was a rare moment when I wasn't chasing chickens, as they were particularly bothersome in this interview. Berrie met the father of these kids at a hotel in the Kavango region and thought that he could become one of the "soldiers" in the fight against the witchcraft machine. But when we came to interview him and his parents at their home, rather than denouncing witchcraft or expressing skepticism, he merely went on and on about how witch doctors perform their ceremonies and "skills," giving excruciatingly detailed accounts of how they divine who in a community is a witch, etc. He was clearly wholly enveloped in the culture. The second photo below is the man's mother (the children's grandmother), a sweet-seeming soul.
This is another Kavango woman. I'm not sure exactly what I like about this photo because I'm not really enamored with the look on her face. Maybe the colors, and I think the way the two cups are arranged at her feet ... I dunno, but I do like it.
Okay ... I guess it's an abrupt ending, I have no summarizing thoughts that haven't already been expressed. Hope you've enjoyed this three-part journey with me through the beautiful faces of northern Namibia.
Read more articles from Namibia II archive
See more northern Namibia portraits in Part 1 and Part 2