KHOISAN ROCK ART OF THE FORGOTTEN PEOPLE

By Caitlin Bantom

Engraved or painted, these rocks form a large part of Khoisan (also known as the bushmen) history.

This week’s Historical artifacts column features the rock art created by the Khoisan people in the Southern regions of Africa at an estimate of five thousand (5 000) years ago, according to Jason Daley of Smithsonian Mag.

The Khoisan people used paints of different colors to create their desired artistic drawings on the rocks. In his book (The medikane rock-paintings: sorcerers or hunters?), H.C Woodhouse said that these painting were made out of finely ground rocks mixed with fat and were able to withstand any type of weather conditions for a good number of years.

Woodhouse also said that the type of pictures the Khoisan people drew included that of people and animals. “Pictures of the Eland, Reybuck, Hartebeest and Lion, and also of bushmen and blacks fighting; of horses and men on horseback were numerous, and also many other figures,” he said.

According to SA History (SAHO), it is believed by archaeologists that the Khoisan drew these pictures to bring good fortune to their hunting endeavors. “Some archaeologists think the paintings were created to bring good fortune to a hunt as a kind of spiritual exercise,” they said.

SAHO further argues that rock art had a hand in spiritual rituals and trance dancing when the Shaman (medicine man) drew links between the supernatural and natural world. “The paintings are then used as a medium of communication with the spirit world, especially for spiritual rituals such as rainmaking and healing/cleaning. It is even suggested that the Shamans were the artists who, after emerging from a trance, would paint the images they saw,” they said.

The rock art all has symbolic meaning behind being drawn. For example, The Eland; SAHO states that it is a central symbol, it symbolizes a ‘good thing’ and its fat relates to the females in their culture (girls are seen as fat). Another example includes the drawings of predators which symbolizes stress and threats in their environment.

The Khoisan rock art can be found and explored in the Eastern Cape, Drakensberg, Lesotho, Cederberg, Northern Cape and Limpopo regions in South Africa.

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