Places To Visit

Things To See
Rock Art in the Drakensberg

Rock Art in the Drakensberg

The existence of so many Bushman paintings, representing an otherwise lost culture, is a matter of fortune. All of the Drakensberg paintings are on Cave Sandstone, a rock custom built for the purpose. It erodes in a way that produces weatherproof overhangs; few are real caves. So the artist can work in peace, and his work will not be washed away by the first rain. The sandstone is porous so that paint applied will sink in and “grip”.

Bushman art has a distinctive style. Its cartoon-like quality is well illustrated by paintings of the Eland, which must have been the favourite animal of the Bushmen. Eland pictures outnumber those of all other animals put together. Something all the Eland pictures have in common is the exaggeration of those qualities so typical, its huge neck and shoulders. To emphasise the point the legs are made small and weedy. Newer paintings partially obliterate older; artists did not necessarily respect the work of others. Best painting surfaces must have been at a premium, with rivalry over-riding any finer feelings.

Bushman paintings have great value as a picture book of the past, illustrating several other animals not found in the Berg today. A perfect Elephant can only have been painted from life, and a cat, of heavier build than a Leopard, is surely a Lion. Antbears, Rhinos and Roan Antelopes are also painted.

Most human scenes seem very real. In the battle scenes warriors are as dynamic as any ever portrayed, all speed and vigour. Evidently life was not all peace and harmony, man has always fought over the best things when they are in short supply. The portrayal of the human figures shares a characteristic with the animal paintings; lifelike, but not exactly true to life. Distinctive features, such as enlargement of the buttocks, the feature that most obviously distinguishes the Bushmen from other races, are emphasised.

The materials used in the paints are all local. Blood, or rock or soil rich in ferric oxide (rust) provide reddish brown. Variations in redness can be obtained by heating the pigment in a fire. Charcoal provides black, while white is created with bird droppings or clay. Other colours are rare, and Bushmen weren’t particular about matching colour to that of the live subject. Elephants tend to be painted red for example. We know from incomplete paintings that white was applied first, and additional colours, if any, were painted on top. Melted fat, beeswax or egg white converted the pigment into usable paint, but the secret ingredient that gave permanence to the paintings is not known.

Some of the Rock Art Sites to visit in the Drakensberg Experience region:

Tel 036 438 6310
The area is rich in Bushmen art, and excellent examples can be viewed in the Royal Natal situated in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site.
Guided outings to the Sigubudu Bushmen paintings take place every day between 9:00 and 16:00. This excursion takes approximately 1 hour, made up of 20 minutes walking each way, and 20 minutes allowed for interpretive information about the rock art and for exploring the surroundings. An entrance fee into the park and an excursion fee is payable for this outing.

Tel: 033 845 1000
Didima Resort’s San Rock Art Centre, is a celebration of one of South Africa’s richest cultural heritages - the rock art of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park. It provides insights into the art and culture of the San. The centre comprises a display hall, where visitors learn about who the uKhahlamba San people were and how they once lived, a preview room for a fireside story telling experience and an auditorium where visitors watch a screening of the audio visual presentation.
The Rock Art Centre is open between 08:00 - 16:00 daily.
Rock art is found in many places at Cathedral Peak.

Tel: 033 845 1000
An incredible display of paintings on the small band of cliffs above the Kamberg Camp. Guided outings take approximately 2 hours and a fee is payable for this trip.

There are a number of sites which are accessible through the resorts in the area and these are depicted on the Drakensberg Experience’s map.