Because of the harsh desert climate in the region where they live, the Himba were relatively secluded from outside influences, particularly during the colonial period, and manage to maintain much of their traditional lifestyle. They wear little clothing, but the woman are famous for covering themselves with a mixture of butter fat, ochre, and herbs to protect themselves from the sun. The mixture gives their skins a reddish tinge.
The Himbas' history is wrought with disasters, including severe droughts and guerrilla warfare, especially during Namibia's quest for independence and as a result of the civil war in neighboring Angola. In 1904, they suffered from the same attempt at genocide by the German colonial power under Lothar von Trotha that decimated other groups in Namibia, notably the Herero and the Nama. Today the greatest threat to the Himba way of life is the proposed Epupa Dam, which would destroy the ecosystem in their territory.