The Ovahimba Years

A Multimedia Ethnography in Namibia and Angola
Petite Rina
Les années Ovahimba

Une ethnographie multimédia en Namibie et Angola

In memoriam

To the friends that inspired and accompanied me on the journey of The Ovahimba Years, through their keenness of mind and spirit, their humaneness and their generosity.

Germaine Dieterlen, ethnographer and friend known for her pioneer work on Dogon culture, co-author with Marcel Griaule of Le renard pâle. Our common Protestant ancestry lead us to agree unanimously on one question; we could not survive without our Catholic friends. The last words Germaine said to me were, "Ecrivez là où vous êtes." Indeed, she never ceased to encourage me to write rather than to film my observations in the field. She passed away in 1999, a year after I arrived in Etanga.

Jean Rouch, filmmaker of over a hundred films, including Les maître fous, a masterful piece of visual narrative. Jean was a mentor when I studied with him, a colleague when I worked with him and a friend during all times. Whenever I returned to Paris, I would run a list of problems experienced in the field by him. He would occasionally acknowledge some as common fieldwork problems, rarely offered any advice, but always sent me back to Etanga saying, "You are on the way!" with that particular French accent. Jean died in a car accident in Niger on the 19th of February, 2004.

Germaine Dieterlen and Jean Rouch on the set of M. M. les locataires,
a film by Rina Sherman on life in the Paris suburb, Noisy-le-Sec.

Dogon Cosmonogy: Jean Rouch and Germaine Dieterlen




REGARDS 14 – 20 novembre 2009


Didier Contant, my companion, âme-soeur and grand reporter, accompanied me to Etanga and the south-west of Angola during the last year of my field work. He rapidly took to life roaming about the Kalahari savanna in a 4x4 and was appreciated by all wherever we went. We were on our way back to Angola, when on the 15th of February 2004, he died abruptly in Paris whilst completing an investigation on the assassination of the Monks of Tibhirine. His death followed a violent slanderous campaign run against him by fellow Parisian journalists simply because he held an opinion different to theirs.

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Didier Contant in Otjiheke, south-west Angola, September 2003


The Headman of Etanga, the father of the house of the Tjambiru, who welcomed the unexpected visitor I was into his family home and his community. During the seven years of my stay in Etanga, he observed me with a watchful eye, reprimanded me when I went astray and always encouraged me to be strong and to continue my work. Gradually, he adopted me as a child of his own and to me he grew to be the father of my life. He passed away in December, 2004. More…

HeadmanRina Sherman
The Headman of Etanga


Praise Song by the Headman of Etanga
for Kakurukouye, ancestor of the Tjambiru Family

Kakurukouye was born near the hill with a big stone on the top, which looks like a decapitated ox whose head was placed on the grave of a "favourite child"; where a broad white strip runs from the top to the bottom and both sides are covered with long furrows of water created by the supreme being; he was born at the place of the mother of Vare, where there are many eyes of pheasants and where the monkeys live; he was born at the place of Kakutirewa, the son of Nihova and at the place of Kangu, the son of Vikorore.

April 1995

Quoted From: Wärnlöf Cristofer, Wärnlöf, Christofer, An Ovahimba political landscape: Patterns of authority in northwestern Namibia, Göteborg University, 1998.

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