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The Palm Wine Collectors Caught in a Lens

The Palm Wine Collectors Caught in a Lens

The project of the Namibian photographer Kyle Weeks explores the antique technique used by Himba Men to produce the alcoholic drink Otusu from Makalani palm sap

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Kyle Weeks is a Namibian photographer based in both Amsterdam and Cape Town. His most recent project Palm Wine Collectors presents Himba men, Makalani palm harvesters in northern Namibia’s Kunene Region.

“I photographed this series of eight portraits on my return to the Kunene region of Namibia. I had traveled to the region to talk to participants of the Ovahimba Youth Self-Portrait project” - realized one year before. “A young Himba man named Wakarerera Tjondu, whom I had met earlier, led me through the palm groves and proudly introduced me to the palm tapping process for the first time.”

The result of this age-old technique is Otusu, an alcoholic drink obtained by fermenting sap with naturally occurring yeasts. Passed through the generations, Otusu is a traditional Namibian palm wine and it’s collected by “the Himba men who select, prepare and maintain Makalani palms during the sap tapping process. The Himba people from this area have utilized this plant family for generations, passing down the knowledge and technique needed to carry out the process of obtaining the liquid.”

The Process

To begin the process, the collectors select a well-aged, sizable male palm. Its size and proximity to ground water will determine the amount of sap it produces. Once selected, the trunk is then pierced with stakes carved from harder wood, as steps upward toward the leaves and flower at the top. In order to attain the sap, the men behead the palm, cutting the crown from the trunk.

“Although the Makalani palm is a protected tree in Namibia and the tapping of palms is a banned practice, the Himba follow ancient cultural traditions that respect these palms through their utilization. In turn, they promote their conservation on a local, cultural level.”

Look at the images of Palm Wine Collectors project (click on the images to enlarge).


Wakarerera Tjondu, Wine Palm Collector 


 Tjiari Joya, Wine Palm Collector


Mutjope Kavari, Wine Palm Collector


Kunene River, Namibia


Marupuho Tjiposa, Wine Palm Collector 


Kauyu Tjiambiru, Wine Palm Collector


Tjakandundo Muhenye, Wine Palm Collector 


Uriuavim Kapika, Wine Palm Collector

All images ©Kyle Weeks


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