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