“I photographed this series of eight portraits in 2015 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. A young Himba man named Wakarerera Tjondu, whom I had met earlier in 2014, led me through the palm groves and proudly introduced me to the palm tapping process for the first time.
The images in this series portray 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.
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. The most productive palms secrete over one hundred liters per tap. Once selected, the trunk is then pierced with stakes carved from harder wood. These act as steps upward toward the leaves and flower at the top.
Although the Makalani palm is a protected tree in Namibia and the tapping of palms a banned practice, the Himba firmly believe that it is their right to continue the tradition. They argue against Western law and instead follow ancient cultural traditions that respect these palms through their utilization. In turn, they promote their conservation on a local, cultural level.”
Discover more of Kyle’s work here: Kyle Weeks