Dimba people

Dimba

Dimba / Mudimba

The Dimba are a livestock society that mainly inhabits the savannah on the outskirts of the town of Cahama (Angola).

They also practice hunting and subsistence agriculture. Currently, they usually cultivate the lands of the Himba and liven up their festivals with songs, being their successors in terms of social rank in the area. Their towns are characterized by being surrounded by robust palisades and having houses decorated with colorful geometric patterns.

Despite the Christianization of the area, women still preserve a fascinating hairstyle culture, wearir different and amazing styles for every occasion and stage of life.

 

Population and Ecosystem

15.000 Mudimba live between the wooded savannah eat of Cahama and the dry and rocky valleys and hills that end in Cunene River.

 

Economy & Social Organization

Dimba people are cattle herders and also practice hunting and subsistence agriculture. Dimba women still build and use baskets with many interesting geometric patterns. They live under a clan-based tribal structure led by the eldest male.

 

Art and Architecture

The Dimba are reputable basket makers. Their esparto granaries where the seeds are stored are the largest ones in Angola. Both women and men have mastered the art of making baskets from the plants they collect.

Dimba women make beautiful dolls for their young daughters to play with. These dolls are often lavishly decorated with vegetable cords and braids covered with colored glass of plastic beads.

There are two types of Dimba dolls: the special ones for girls in the process of initiation into adulthood, which have dozen of braids decorated with colored  beads, and the most common ones with belts of vegetable fibers and beads and braids made with natural or artificial hair.

Dimba women still build and use baskets with many interesting geometric concepts. For example, truncated conical and cylindrical shapes, spirals, various geometric figures, complex patterns, transformations in the plane and friezes. These extraordinary mathematical practices applied to the construction of the baskets have aroused interest from the point of view of ethnomathematical studies.

Dimba villages are full of beautiful utensils made of vegetable fibres: from enormous containers for keeping the grain to small baskets to collect chicken eggs.

Like good craftsmen, the Dimba decorate the facades of their homes with geometric patterns. The dominant colors for these drawings are white, black and red; which they obtain from clays found ¡n riverbeds. Their decorated houses are rectangular, spaciously distributed over a wide area and surrounded by a palisade of thick logs.

 

Aesthetics and Belief System

Dimba married women have two different styles of hairdo: the "afro" style -normally seen in older women or mothers with babies- and the "three crest" style, less impressive than the "afro" style.

Dimba girls wear beaded wigs (sometimes covering their faces) for wedding celebrations which means they have had their first periods but are not ready for marriage. A girl in the process of 'fico' -initiation-, wear a vegetable fiber belt that indicates that she will soon be a woman and will be ready to get married.

Dimba are becoming influenced by neighboring Humbi and Gambue tribes and are increasingly converting to Christianity. Despite this tendency, in small villages traditional bull and ancestors' worship is still widely practiced.

 

Challenges

The Dimba are the cattle herding group closest to paved roads and to the most westernized ethnic groups of southwestern Angola, like the Humbi. The aggressive pressure of missionaries schooling, European clothing and the emigration of young people to Namibia are undoubtedly the greatest challenges which Dimba people face today. Finally, drought has become constant threat to this grass-dependent livestock society. Improving irrigation systems in the fields and incorporating cultural tourism as a source of economic resource could be vali responses to these future challenges.

 

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