Drakensberg Rock Art – A bushman cultural experience

Bushman rock art in the Drakensberg Mountains

Bushman rock art creates a world heritage site

Drakensberg rock art - Main CavesThe Drakensberg Mountains are steeped in a rich cultural heritage. These mountains were home to the Bushman people until as recently as the nineteenth century. The mountain caves and overhangs of the Drakensberg now bear testament to the San way of life. Over 30 000 individual recorded images at nearly 700 sites can be seen in the Drakensberg Mountains. It was in fact the significance of these rock art sites which led to the Ukhahlamba-Drakensberg Park being declared a World Heritage Site in 2000.

What is the rock art about?

Drakensberg rock artThe rock art covers a variety of topics – with the most common being animal figures and specifically Eland which were considered sacred, as well as human figures depicted in scenes from daily life. There are guided walks to some of the many rock art sites. Subject matter includes animals like the revered eland antelope, human figures and therianthropes (metamorphosis from human to animal). In addition there are excellent educational centres at Kamberg and Didima which provide interactive experiences. Rock art in the Central & Northern Drakensberg is more shamanistic, including mainly hallucinatory motifs, e.g. “ropes to God”, magnificent dream images such as the “Moon Goddess” and the “Sorcerer” of Sorcerer’s Rock.  In the Didima valley alone, researchers discovered 12 depictions of bee swarms

The best rock art sites

The Kamberg Rock Art Centre offers visitors information about the world of the San, as well as the opportunity to participate in a guided walk with a community guide to Game Pass Shelter to see the best examples of rock art in the Drakensberg.  The most accessible Drakensberg rock art sites is the open-air Bushman Cave Museum called Main Caves in the Giant’s Castle Reserve. A short walk takes you to the cave, which features 500 rock paintings, some of which are estimated to be around 800 years old. In Ndedema Gorge 3 900 paintings have been recorded at 17 sites, more than 1 000 in the Sebaayeni Cave but its a long walk to get there. Royal Natal National Park offers an easy walk along the upper reaches of the Tugela River, starting from the park visitors’ centre and heading into the Sigubudu Valley, to reach some of the rarest San paintings in the Drakensberg.

More information about Bushman rock art sites in the Drakensberg