South African Rock Art

South African rock art is evident nationwide. Examples of it are to be found from Fish Hoek and the Cederberg in the Western Cape, and Aliwal North in the Eastern Cape, to the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal and the Makgabeng Plateau in the far north of Limpopo Province. While much of this material can be traced back to the Stone Age, there are also examples that are known to have been completed as recently as the early nineteenth century. The most prolific of these early artists were the Bushmen or San people. Sadly, only their paintings and a few marginalised Kalahari settlements now remain of those whose DNA was the blueprint for modern man.

The Diverse South African Rock Art of the Makgabeng Plateau

Other examples of South African rock art are associated with the KhoiKhoi and the Northern Sotho people. The former were a contemporary group similar in appearance to their rivals, the San, but whose speech differed from the Bushmen “click” sounds that are widely believed to be the earliest form of spoken language. While there is evidence of both groups in many parts of the country, only on the Makgabeng Plateau is it possible to find not just their artwork, but also that of the Northern Sotho people in a single, common location. This is one of many unique aspects of the region that has seen it become a prime tourist destination.

Like that in other countries, South African rock art tells us much about the people who created it and provides a window on the lifestyles experienced by people in an age that today would otherwise be defined only by its fossil remains. From the artistic renderings of the early San people, whose skeletal remains suggest a history that extends back for at least 120 thousand years, we learn where and how they chose to hunt. Their paintings also tell of the many varied species that once thronged the areas in which these hunters roamed, but whose numbers have since dwindled almost to the point of extinction in some places.

Other examples of South African rock art reveal important insights into the culture of their long-dead creators. These include some of their tribal rituals and, particularly, their love of the dance – a form of recreation that is shared by all the races of the world, both past and present. While the true value of these works was not always appreciated in the past, today all of the more important sites are protected. It is hoped that such measures will serve to ensure that future generations will still be free to explore their heritage through this primitive but powerful visual medium.

As stated earlier, the unusual diversity of the South African rock art found in the Makgabeng region is unique. Along with the opportunity to view its game or attempt some of the most challenging rock climbs in the country, these painting have become a magnet for tourists as has our nearby Makgabeng Farm Lodge.

The perfect base from which to arrange and enjoy your daily expeditions, our lodge offers friendly hospitality and excellent accommodation for the traveller with a choice of various rooms on either a self-catering or dine-in basis. With air conditioning, shower and 8-channel TV as standard, where better to enjoy South African rock art?