Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/202

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We did not join in the dance, but amused ourselves with admiring the ladies. What with their charms, which were by no means inconsiderable, and the wonderful regard they evinced for us, these damsels all but ruined our peace of mind.

The features of the Ovambo women, though coarse, are not unpleasing. When young they possess very good figures. As they grow older, however, the symmetry gradually disappears, and they become exceedingly stout and ungainly. One of the causes of this is probably to be found in the heavy copper ornaments with which they load their wrists and ankles. Some of the ankle-rings must weigh as much as two or three pounds, and they have often a pair on each leg. Moreover, their necks, waists, and hips are almost hidden from view by a profusion of shells, cowries, and beads of every size and color, which sometimes are rather prettily arranged.[1] Another cause of their losing their good looks in comparatively early life is the constant and severe labor they are obliged to undergo. In this land of industry no one is allowed to be idle, and this is more especially the case with the females. Work begins at sunrise and ends at sunset.

The hair of both men and women is short, crisp, and woolly. With the exception of the crown, which is always left untouched, the men often shave the head, which has the effect of magnifying the natural prominence of the hinder parts of it. The women, on the other hand, not satisfied with the gifts nature has bestowed upon them, resort, like the polished ladies of Europe, to artificial exaggerations. They besmear and stiffen the hair with cakes of grease and a vermilion-colored substance, which, from being constantly added to and pressed upon it, gives to the upper part of the

  1. These ornaments, together with a narrow and soft piece of skin in front, and another behind of stout hide, constitute the dress of the Ovambo ladies.