by J. D. Lewis-Williams (Jacana) ISBN 978-1-43140-100-0
I have read a few books on Rock Art. This little book is exceptional in that the subject is so clearly explained. Other books have left me muddled. But not this gem.
For a start it was wonderful to learn that President Thabo Mbeki incorporated a San rock painting in our new national coat of arms. As it now stands, the selected rock painting seems to show two men facing each other with their arms raised in greeting.
The President explained that the people who made the original rock painting “were the very first inhabitants of our land, the Khoisan people.” You will see on the coat of arms that the President chose an ancient language which is now extinct. This emphasizes the tragedy of millions of human beings who, through the ages, have perished and even ceased to exist at all, because of man’s inhumanity to man.
An old woman whose father had done paintings said that if a ‘good’ person placed his or her hand on the rock art of an eland painting, then the potency locked up in the painting would flow into the person, thus giving them special powers. But she cautioned that if a ‘bad’ person put his or her hand onto the art, bad things would happen to them. It is believed that San people have out of body experiences in the throes of tribal dance. And, we learn, the San had powers to bring on rain.
There is a need for people who are different to come together. which is painfully acute. Because all the painters are long since dead, we shall never truly know what the images mean. Even if you have no interest in this subject, I strongly recommend you dip into this little pocket book. You won’t be disappointed.