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My Seven Years with the Ovahimba

My Seven Years with the Ovahimba

    From the first glance the Ovahimba exchange with a guest, they imagine the essential quality of their visitor. Assigning a nickname often follows. Thus, shortly after my arrival, they called me Kandavi, a figure from the world of fairy spirits that move in a tree. They spotted an active side in me; always busy photographing them, to retain precisely the tender and penetrating gaze they so well know how to show to others.

            Ethnographer Rina Sherman lived for seven years with an Omuhimba headman and family in the Kunene North Region of Namibia. During this time she created strong bonds with the headman, his wife and members of the family, she learned to speak their language, Otjiherero and filmed and photographed their everyday life and their ritual ceremonies and traditions. Over the years, Rina Sherman constituted The Ovahimba Years Collection, a vast archive of videos, photographs, notes and drawings that she donated to the French National Library (BnF) in 2014. As an expression of the ethnographer’s humanist eye, a multimedia exhibition featuring her work offers a unique testimony of the everyday life of this cattle farming community and its intangible cultural heritage: a shared experience to be discovered at the BnF in the fall.

            The quality of Rina Sherman’s photographic work is particularly noticeable in a series of portraits of Ovahimba women, men and children. In each of her images, a personality comes to the fore, offering us a gaze like an open question. “Over the seven years of living with the Ovahimba, two things never ceased to fascinate me: the way they look at people and their manner of appearing and disappearing without anyone seeing them arrive or leave.”

            During her long field work study , Rina Sherman undertook two long sojourns in the south west of Angola in Oncócua, Namibe, Virei and the Otjiheke winter grazing areas, making her the only ethnographer that has studied the Ovahimba and related peoples (Ovakuvale, Ovahakaona, Ovadhimba, etc.) on both sides of the Kunene River border between Namibia and Angola. She is currently preparing a multimedia exhibition at the French National Library in Paris in the fall 2015 and the publication of a book, a photographic witness to her seven years of life shared with the Ovahimba.

For more information on the exhibition:


and the forthcoming  book: The Ovahimba Years / Rina Sherman

Photos Copyright©Rina Sherman

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Wazo Magazine es la revista colaborativa gratuita de Wazo Coop. Se trata de una publicación social que da acceso a personas voluntarias que contribuyen a su realización aportando artículos relacionados con proyectos de industrias creativas e innovación social.

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