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Namibian Women; Source: Koko Tv

Okujepisa Omukazendu: Wife Swapping among the Namibian Himba Tribesmen 

The Himba “people of Ovahimba and Ovazimba tribes in the Kunene and Omusati regions in Northern Namibia” have some strange cultures which seem weird to the world (of now, especially). Notably, these cultures are not just developed; they have been in practice for years.

They live in isolation, “offer sex for free to their guest” and beautify newborns with bead necklaces. These people’s beliefs and cultures have not been tarnished in any way by external entities; rather they detest any form of ‘innovation’ that will trash their ancient cultures and beliefs.

The Himba: Social Life

The men can hunt for several months before coming back home. The number of cattle one has determines the nomads’ wealth status. And in the age of puberty, their fathers select male partners for them to marry.  

Namibian Himba Women; Source: Koko Tv
Namibian Women; Source: Koko Tv

Villagers are usually very pious, worshipping their ancient deities. They practice polygamy as widely practised in many places in Africa, and young girls marry their male partners at early ages.

The geographical condition of this region has made portable water to be scarce, making bathing a difficulty for these people. In the long run of evading a bath, it becomes somewhat of a cultural practice among these people that many writers simply regard to them as people ‘who do not bathe.’

Notwithstanding, that they do not bathe does not mean they are hard on the eyes. Seeing them in their traditional attire pleases the eyes beyond imagination. Their beautiful look does not only represent their unique ways of dressing but also symbolizes their uniqueness as a tribe with originality, not taking to any form of external influence.

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A young Himba woman in front of her home.
Himba women stain their skin and hair daily
by applying a mixture of ochre powder and
animal fat which helps to protect their skin f
rom sun and insects. cr: Getty Images

Because of the difficulty they face in taking their bath, “they use the red ochre on their skins and then make use of a daily smoke bath to maintain their hygiene.”

The Himba: Okujepisa Omukazendu 

The Himba people have a very high level of hospitality towards their guests, but they don’t allow any form of external influence on their cultures and beliefs.

Giving Okujepisa Omukazendu treatment to the guests is an utmost treatment a man can offer his guests. This practice means that a man will let his wife spend the night with the guest while the man (the husband) will sleep in another room. If there is no availability of another room for the husband to sleep, he will have to sleep outside.

Himba’s Okujepisa Omukazendu: Implications

The implication of this practice is that it reduces envy, and jealousy and enhances cooperation. The woman has no opinion in the process of making such a decision because she must obey her husband. However, she can decide whether to sleep with him or not, but she has to sleep in the room that is arranged for the man (the guest).

“Where there is an agreement between gentlemen to have sex with each others’ wives, it is usually done with no strings attached.”

Moreover, the wife can give her friends to her husband when they visit, but this rarely occurs.  

Danger of the Okujepisa Omukazendu 

This practice has been criticized by many people, both inside and outside Africa, emphasizing the evils of the custom which are not limited to diseases, rape, and other forms of activities that dehumanize.

The women have no say in the decision-making; they can only reject to have intercourse with the guest but cannot refuse to sleep in the same room as the guest. Namibia is currently battling HIV/AIDS, and this custom has not in any way helped.

It puts a lot of risk in the lives of the women especially and the people in general. There is no regard for the health of the women. Unfortunately, this is still manipulated among these people; “some men who seek to please their friends or highly esteemed guests usually take advantage of this tradition by offering their wives.”


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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.