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Ma vie avec les Ovahimba
2e édition révisée

Rina Sherman
et Pierre-Albert Ruquier

k éditeur, Paris, 2020
ISBN 9782374390000

Rina Sherman a un jour posé ses armes d'universitaire au sein de leur maison et son destin est désormais scellé au leur. Rina-Kandavi, son prénom Ovahimba, en a fait des films simples et beaux, et nous offre avec sept années de sa vie avec les Ovahimbas, ses difficultés, ses joies, ses peines, ses doutes, ses certitudes… Le texte s'articule autour du voyage entre Windhoek, la capitale de la Namibie, et Etanga, soit huit cents kilomètres d'une route dangereuse qui est une quatre voie au sortir de la grande ville et une piste de terre à l'arrivée. Rina Sherman conduit son 4X4 seule et se souvient des sept années qu'elle a passées avec la famille Tjambiru. Une chronique de la vie du village d'Etanga où le chef est devenu son père, la jeune Kakaendona sa plus proche complice et le petit Kozondana comme son propre fils. On retrouve tous ces personnages et bien d'autres dans le récit. Les rires, les pleurs, les escapades, les rituels, la beauté du soir qui tombe sur les collines du Kaokoland, les boeufs, l'alcool, la vie, la mort.

En voici les premières lignes :

C'est mon dernier voyage à Etanga. Je sais que la route sera longue comme à l'accoutumée. Je l'ai parcourue tant de fois ! Je vais rouler seule durant des heures. Plein nord. Direction le Kaokoland, aux confins de la Namibie et de l'Angola, là où personne ne va. La terre de quelques milliers d'Ovahimbas et leurs célèbres femmes peintes en rouge, exhibées sur les cartes postales et les prospectus des agences de voyage. C'est là que vivent ceux qui sont devenus les miens. J'ai huit cents kilomètres à avaler, de tronçons en étapes, parsemés de dangers et d'émerveillements. Une aventure. Un défi. Ma vie.

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Book Review - Seven Years in Namibia

English translation of French review

My Life with the Ovahimba
Rina Sherman
et Pierre-Albert Ruquier

If one had to find a cinematic equivalent to 'My life with the Ovahimba', it would be a making of, the narrative of the more or less epic adventures of a film shoot. The comparison works all the better since the author is a filmmaker. In this case of the rare species of documentary-ethnologists that feed their works long stays with the people they intend to film. When Rina Sherman left to settle with the Ovahimba livestock farmers in Namibia, she intended to follow in the footsteps of Jean Rouch. She had been a pupil and assistant to the author of The Crazy Masters (Les maîtres fous, 1956), and now wanted to explore her own field of study. She however did not imagine that she would live among the Ovahimba for seven years.
Seven years during which she forged extremely close links with the family of Chief of the Etanga community in Namibia. "Kakaendona is my sister. She says that our spirits are exchanged. She is from the Tjambiru lineage, the youngest daughter of the Headman of Etanga, in other words, a child of the lineage of eight generations of chiefs. With her, we committed the ‘400 coups’. We laughed, danced, drank and talked". Soon R Sherman called the head of Etanga ‘father,’ a title that, far from being merely honorary, reflects mutual affection and respect. "One morning, we decided to climb the oHere hill behind the house. My father, this thin man of noble bearing, a heavy drinker, led the way setting a rapid pace. (...) He looked at me, and then let his gaze sweep over the panorama. No doubt in it he saw different things than me. (...) He saw a distant pasture, water sources, a well, the right to access inherited at birth, the road leading to it, his house as well. The entire difference between the outlook of my father on this landscape and mine was present. I was imagining a painting, he was reflecting on his life."

If over time, R. Sherman shares a real bond with ‘her’ family, she encounters the thousand pitfalls of social and cultural differences. The filmmaker has come to work, gather information, film daily life and, if possible, the possession rituals of the Ovahimba. They inevitably consider her to be ‘an opportunity of wealth.’ She refused to lend her car all the time, confronting the common sense of her hosts. She even makes real blunders. For this nation of farmers, the only wealth is cattle. Everything else is shared. How can this white person refuse to give water to passersby? some reproach her. Can they not understand that she cannot devote all her time to fetch water? she complains. Conflicts sometimes resulted in irreversible crisis. After three years, R. Sherman gave up his permanent camp at Etanga – inadvertently set up on sacred land...
A good friend and affectionate, the filmmaker is no less proud, irritable and prone to bouts of anger. This redhead probably draws in her excess energy, that also made her hold out in Ovahimba country. A happy propensity for transgression, she has too. One day, the dignitaries gathered for days to distribute the stock of a deceased person, she goes up to them to demand meat, reserved for men on the occasion of this ritual. The filmmaker, does she not work like a man too? Defying the boundaries between genres, this descendant of the Afrikaners (R Sherman is South African born) also crosses blithely those between whites and blacks, like when inviting the head of Etanga and his wife into a hotel reserved for white tourists, much to the embarrassment of the management. After reading a somewhat disjointed narrative, R Sherman and Pierre-Albert Ruquier leave an impression of a genuine adventure and real insight into the life of an unknown people.

Sciences Humaines August/ September OJD: 35149

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