The Himba Baby Song

I was thinking today of the famous quote by David M. Eagleman that each person suffers three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

It’s something interesting to ponder isn’t it?  The gap between the first death and the third is for some people very quick, indeed for a few the last time the name is spoken may well be the first or second death,  Whilst others such as a tiny minority of ancient historical figures are still alive and kicking millennia after they may have been buried.

It got me wondering if there was anything similar for measuring the life of someone before they were born and whether it is entirely true or not, it’s a very interesting concept.

In Namibia in southwestern Africa, the Himba tribe is one of the few that counts the birth date of the children not from the day they are born nor conceived but the day the mother decides to have the child.

When a Himba woman decides to have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree, by herself, and she listens until she can hear the song of the child who wants to come. And after she’s heard the song of this child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father, and teaches him the song. When the child is conceived, they sing the song of the child as a way of inviting the child.

When she becomes pregnant, the mother teaches that child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village, so that when the child is born, the old women and the people gather around him/her and sing the child’s song to welcome him/her. As the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls, or gets hurt, someone picks him/her up and sings to him/her his/her song. When the child does something wonderful, or goes through the rites of puberty, then as a way of honouring this person, the people of the village sing his or her song.

Namibie_Himba_0705a

A young lady from the Himba tribe.

In the Himba tribe there is one other occasion when the “child song” is sang to the Himba tribes-person. If a Himba tribesman or tribeswoman commits a crime or something that is against the Himba social norms, the villagers call him or her into the centre of the village and the community forms a circle around that person and sing their birth song to them.

The Himba views correction not as a punishment, but as love and remembrance of identity. For when you recognise your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

In marriage, the songs are sung, together. And finally, when the a member of the Himba tribe is laying on their deathbed, all the villagers that know his or her song come and sing – for the last time that person’s song.

Advertisements

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
This entry was posted in geography, Heritage, Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Himba Baby Song

  1. purplesus says:

    Such a joy to read your post. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rosemarie says:

    I know of this tradition in the Himba tribes. It’s beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I must admit I had heard of neither the three deaths concept nor the Himba song tradition… both fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

A blog is nothing with out feedback, please give me some!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s