“We are great dreamers…”
The Himbas of Namibia, who have regularly been portrayed in front of the lens by outsiders, have switched places and taken matters into their own hands behind the lens.
The result is The Himbas are Shooting! – a film that premiered in August in Windhoek.
The film is a snapshot of a typical Himba village and its residents. The actors comment on their culture and living standards, and demonstrate a wedding and funeral ceremony (an eye-opener), providing insight into their daily lives.
Funny. Poignant. Introspective. Generous. These are just some of the words that describe this beautiful documentary, which has already received critical acclaim in Europe.
Karekare Uushona, one of the main actors in the documentary and a natural comedian, says the filming was great fun. She learnt new skills and is hoping to make more.
Producing the movie was an opportunity for the Himba to take the reins when it came to their portrayal to the world out there. Muniobara Muhapikwa, one of the main actors, said that as a group, they had become ‘sick and tired’ of outsiders making documentaries about them without the Himba themselves ‘having any say’.
Headman Mutjindwika Mutambo said that filmmakers would come to them, take from them, ‘and then go away’, without leaving any benefits to the main participants in the film – the Himba.
He added that The Himbas are Shooting! is an opportunity to remind the world that the ‘Himba still exist’. He said that by being in charge, they were keen to tell their real story to the world, and ‘to spread the story of the Himba’.
He said that the Himba’s role in society was often forgotten and neglected. Through the documentary they hoped to make people ‘realise that we are not valued’.
In one scene, the tribe discusses the importance of family and friends: “In our culture you never abandon anyone.” This is certainly a lesson the rest of the world could learn.
While the movie has laugh-out-loud moments, and shows the lightheartedness that is ingrained in Himba society, some scenes clearly illustrate the issues that are rife in the community, such as their struggle to retain their ancient ways against the tidal wave of development, which is increasingly impacting their lives.
Before the film premiered at the FNCC in August, its Himba ambassadors concluded in a pre-show interview: “We Himbas have things to say and it’s time we were heard.”
That dream has come true. The Himbas are Shooting! is a goal that has been achieved and now, having engendered a taste for directing and acting, the creators of the film say that more movies can be expected.
Overall, the documentary leaves viewers feeling that they have been given an insight into the life of the Himba that is more truthful than that depicted in any other film or book before.
As a final word, the headman said it was his hope that after watching the film, people would leave with the thought: “Maybe the way we perceived the Himba in the past was wrong,” and that this perception had changed.