Otjize: a brick-red foundation

Otjize is not just a faoundation with a red pigment as a dominant, which we can buy in the store, but you can say that it is something very similar to that.

It is a mixture of ochre (a red pigment of a mineral origin), fat from cow’s milk and often, although not necessary, aromatic resin from the plant Omuzumba.

It is used by women from Himba tribe in Namibia, who not only are famous for their extraordinary, sensual beauty, but also for their beautiful skin that remains firm for a long time despite hard work and continuous exposure to the burning African sun.

The Himba tribe believes that red is the color of the fertile land and the flower, which symbolizes life. Red is therefore considered a canon of beauty. That is why Himba women put Otjize on their skin and hair, and even on clothes and ornaments on the body.

But do they do it only for beauty? Not exactly: Otjize has many practical functions. It not only gives specific and unique look and colour but also:

  • provides protection against insects,
  • creates a natural protective filter that protects against UV radiation,
  • helps to retain water in the skin (protects against epidermal loss),
  • prevents aging of the skin.

Himba’s beauties applied Otjize every morning before a day begins. Interestingly, despite the practical functions of Otjize, men do not use it. It follows that the practical aspects of using this make-up are far behind the aesthetic ones. It’s a feminine thing to apply yourself Otjize, just it is a feminine thing is to apply yourself a foundation in the morning in our culture.

By Yves Picq http://veton.picq.fr - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2929792
By Yves Picq http://veton.picq.fr - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2929613