Rock art is Africa’s oldest artistic tradition and South African Bushman or San rock art is one of the finest, oldest and most enduring artistic traditions in the world. Most of the art seems to have been made during the last 2 000 years and much of it in the last 800 years, although some sites in Namibia have been dated at between 27 000 and 30 000 years old.
Rock art is visual imagery painted onto or engraved out of the rock face. It is an archaeological artefact that tells us about its makers, who they were, where they lived and what they thought and did. Bushman rock art is also highly symbolic and religious. Shamanism centres on a belief in a spiritual world that exists behind the rock and which medicine people or shamans could travel to in order to heal, make rain, fight evil and so forth. Functioning as both homes and sacred spaces, the rock art shelters are monuments to the lives and spirituality of the Bushmen.
There are over 25 000 rock art sites throughout South Africa. Many of these are in the vicinity of Clarens, Golden Gate and the Maluti Mountains, with several exceptional rock art sites close to Clarens. Guides are available to assist visitors and in many cases visitors are able to make their own way to the sites. Rock art is an irreplaceable treasure that must be looked after and protected.