Namibia HaĪbun

Himba Tribal Woman, Namibia, Africa Photo by Dr Agnieszka Wojtecka, Gdansk, Poland

Himba Tribal Woman, Namibia, Africa
Photo by Dr Agnieszka Wojtecka, Gdansk, Poland

I was born in Namibia in the heat of the summer sun, outside a homestead beside the Kunene River, many miles from the Skeleton Coast. Mukuru blessed my beloved Namibia with music, dancing and poetry.

homestead in grasslands

waters flow like gold blessings

river meeting sand

My young mother glistened with the traditional red ochre called otjize, which she made from the Omuzumba shrub in the way her mothers and sisters have done since a time beyond memory. Grandfather, the headman, tended the okuruwo, the sacred fire, feeding it Mopane branches. He had not let the fire die for sixty years. Over the fire, he spoke to his ancestors. Nearby, his daughter sat quietly, her braids shading her face, listening to music ripple like heat waves. His music drew my spirit down, and I sang my song to her, her braids sliding along her neck as she lifted her face to the sky.

red braids, shining face

your magic called me to earth

my song filled your ears

Sitting in stillness beside the Mopane in the meagre shade, she first heard my song. Her face shone with the light of the powerful desert sun. She listened carefully, and with her natural musical talent she quickly learned my song. I returned to my long dreaming, but she continued to sing my song. She called my spirit from the dreaming land back to the earth. The women welcomed me on the day of my birth, singing my song through the long hours of her labor.

first gasp of hot air

I cried from surprise, alone

watery world gone

You nourished my spirit, Mother of my earthly body. When I was sad, my mother sang my song, and my spirit remembered the dream land. I joined my song to the songs of the villagers and those of my sisters and brothers. I learned to tend the cattle among the men, but I thought often of my mother. When a lion came for the cattle, it scared me. I held my fear tight until my mother and the villagers sang my song, and my spirit soared high again. In dry years, the cattle grew thin in the high reaches, but the river sustained us like my mother sustained me. Always the cattle could find grass by the Kunene.

water is precious

waters draw grassland from sand

liquid sky, god’s gift

Copyright 2013 Brenda Davis Harsham

Written for the weekly Ligo Haibun challenge (making Fridays more beautiful for us all).

Articles used in writing the story:

Click to access himba_info.pdf

37 thoughts on “Namibia HaĪbun

  1. Ooooh – this is very different, and really very beautiful!! 😀 I love the singing of the child’s song, and the child before it is human singing to it’s mother. Mm… makes me wonder, if it could really be like that! There’s so much we don’t know in this world, and if only we did know more, I think we’d be amazed. It did feel like this could almost be the start of a really good novel, certainly a very intriguing one! 😀


  2. Wow! that is all i can say! as Pirate mentioned, i too wondered if you actually had personal links to this culture. very well put together and the haiku in between – perfect. thank you.


  3. Pingback: The Weekly Haibun Challenge Is Out! | Tea with a Pirate
  4. I really enjoyed that you ‘traveled’ and became part of the song for this haibun. I enjoyed the history and becoming involved with the water, the cattle and the growing grass. And the people too! That is one thing that is good about this new computer/instant access world we can learn so much, offer so much and become part of each others lives.

    Thanks for your visits – I’m attempting to catch up, but I am still so far behind…


  5. This reads like a sweeping epic – but with the essence, the nectar here. I just am amazed at the amount of research that went into this, yet it reads just so,so naturally that I had to check afterwards that you don’t actually live there, and then I read it again, just appreciating, almost singing inside. This piece is just so rich, and the wonderful cultural details just flow. I remember being impressed with the technical details in your grass haibun before but this is just a whole different level. I don’t want to go on and on, but am truly humbled. I will write a few more words about your lovely piece on Friday on my blog. Thank you, sincerely.


    • If one can live around the world in one’s imagination, even if briefly, then that is what I tried to do. In my way, I was writing about my own mother, who I lost so long ago that she retains mystery for me. Like a goddess. I’m glad you like it. I feel like this effort of writing another’s subject is pulling things out of me that are changing me. Thanks for providing this space for haibun, for growing, for making poetry in a community. And for your wonderful comments.


  6. One of the most soul-moving things I’ve ever read. How I wish sometimes we could move forwards round the wheel with our wisdom gained in this life and back to the life before. You’ve captured my heart with this and helped me articulate a deep yearning that never knew its voice till now. All blessings to you angel.


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