In Johannesburg at Wits University is the Origins Centre, a remarkable museum of early man, displaying skulls, tools, rock drawings and some remarkable film of San bushmen killing an Eland, doing a healing trance dance and talking about the various aspects of the paintings, dance, healing and ways into another world, through cracks in the rock, or down a termite nest.
All of this came as a jolt to me because at Nirox I have been thinking along the lines of a chamber into another world; inside/outside, revealing the cracked dolomite paving rocks, and the significance of caves and the underworld, which have revealed the remains of very early hominids. Here at the museum and earlier out at the dome I have encountered just that in the San rock art.
My introduction to the Origin Centre came through Hugh Brody in London, who put me in touch with Ben Smith at the Centre, and Ben advised that I take a drive out to a farm 2 hours from here to see more petroglyphs and to the Drakensburgs to see rock paintings, copies of which he showed me at the museum. These paintings are going fast, vandalism, rain etc etc. so they are making meticulous tracings. They are also in the process of trying to get all of world rock paintings onto a web site because there are so many crossovers between cultures.
So today I drove out with Stephan to Bosworth Farm, just north of the impact Dome. There we were given tea by Dr Neil Orford and his wife. They have a stud farm for race horses and Sussex Cattle. Neil worked as a vet in Sussex, many years ago. He has also had many encounters with modern day bushmen who have worked for him on various farms and he has nothing but praise for them. he even reminded me that Mandela has strong bushman blood in his veins (you can see it in his face) which accounts for his compassion and intelligence.
So Neil then handed us over to Petreus who was to be our guide for the morning. The three of us drove up to a low boulder strewn hill. Clouds were gathering and the sky was looking somewhat black. We were a bit apprehensive because the rock has a lot of iron in it and attracts lightning!
At the gateway to the hill was a single standing figure with very obvious San features. From then on we threaded our way between rocks, Petreus pointing out drawings which we would never have noticed. Subtly pecked into the rock, these are the most delicate, tender and beautiful of images, drawn with great surety, not for the sake of art but to heal someone or to give a sense of power for anyone who later touches them.
Searching for drawings
As well as the animal and human drawings there many more hallucinatory images which looked to be the kind of images which might come up during a trance dance. As well as these, there are the purely abstract patterns which Petreus says denote that here a healing took place.
Many of the drawings are so faded in color, that without Petreus keen eyes and awareness we would never have known just what we were looking at. Most of the drawings face the slope down to the river where many of these animals were to be found. You stand in front of them, they may have been done 300, 3000, or 30,000 years ago, no one knows for sure, but tears come to your eyes and you are gripped by both sadness and elation.
As we return to Nirox the storm finally breaks and there is rain, hail, thunder and lightning. Nature demonstrates its power and the first rains of Spring have arrived.
This is a blog of ongoing projects starting with: 1) Antarctica -Dec. 2006 - February 2007 2) Work made from the experience 2008 3) Nevada Feb. - Oct. 2008
- ▼ October (6)