South Africa occupies a vast area, of which most parts are largely uninhabited, except for the country’s ubiquitous wildlife and a myriad of plant species. The bulk of the nation’s human population, now fast approaching the 55 million mark, is to be found in and around a dozen cities or so, or in its numerous small towns and villages. This, however, was not always the case. Those who roamed the land before the maritime adventurers of the northern hemisphere arrived to make their claims upon it, were largely hunter-gatherers who freely roamed the bushveld plains that provided them with both shelter and sustenance.
South Africa’s Early Heritage is Pictured in its Ancient Rocks
Like the artists of today, these earliest South Africans chose to capture elements of their lives in pictorial form. They exhibited their works, however, not upon elegantly framed canvases hung in spacious galleries to be viewed by a privileged few, but on the roughly hewn walls of rocks and caves where all who passed were free to gaze upon them. Many of their artistic efforts have endured to the present day – a legacy from an age long since passed. In fact, the number of South African rock art sites that have been discovered to date now exceeds 2 500, and many of them have become popular tourist destinations.
The works referred to above are the product of the Bushmen tribes whose dwindling descendants have long since sought refuge in the Kalahari or become assimilated into rural townships. The Khoi and San people were both prolific artists, and the evidence of their talent is to be seen throughout the land. In practice, though, the bulk of their renderings, as well as the best examples, are to be found within the three provinces that constitute the Cape, among the Drakensberg Mountains in KwaZulu-Natal and scattered across the bushveld regions of Limpopo.
While each one of these South African rock art destinations has its own merits, there is much about the Limpopo sites that has served to make these a preferred choice for many tourists. In particular, the Makgabeng Plateau hosts one of the country’s most unique sites in which the works of both Bushmen tribes, alongside the earliest examples of protest art added in the late 17th by the relative newcomers – the Northern Sotho-speaking people.
While the area holds a wide choice of tourist accommodation, there is little to offer the cultural tourist more convenient access to these open-air galleries than the rustic campsite established by our Makgabeng Farm Lodge. With its thatched wooden platforms to support tents and a traditional boma for cooking and ablutions, we present the perfect South African rock art destination.