May 10th, 1991 – Cederberg

Before my departure to Southern Africa I had written to the chief forester in the Cederberg area, in search of information about Bushmen paintings in the surroundings (remember this was long before the internet era, and long before universal email communication). He had enthusiastically replied, and told me to come and look him up once I had arrived in the area, so he could show me around. He had even included a map, with the main rock painting locations indicated.

I met him this morning, an amiable man, very knowledgeable. He apologised profusely, but unfortunately, he had to deal with a bush fire, so couldn’t accompany me to the sites. He pointed me in the right direction, though, so after an hour, or so, I took off, on my own again, armed with the map.

But this is South Africa, remember? After an hour’s drive, through some spectacular scenery, enlivened by autumn colours and vineyards, I reached the Matjies River site (nowadays also known as the Stadsaal Rocks), clearly sign posted to a small office, where the entrance fee was collected. The nearby paintings were a slightly disappointing: not many, and monochromatic only. And that in the company of another group of tourists, South Africans who, however, were enthusiastic rock art fanatics. Altogether nice enough, and no real effort.

the Cederberg mountains
full of autumn colours
and equally colourful vineyards
the main rock paintings panel at Matjieskloof (now called Stadsaal Rocks)
close-up of the Matjieskloof panel
and another close-up

According to the chief forester there were more paintings at a farm called Boontjieskloof, a private property where I arrived in the early afternoon. Having once more negotiated a series of gates, I encountered the new owners of the farm, who proudly told me that there were over 40 rock painting sites on their land. And they happily directed me to the two most famous ones, according to them.

some of the caves and overhangs at Boontjieskloof
hand print, another form of Bushmen rock art, also along the path
female dancers, om a panel along the path towards one of the main caves

I spent well almost two hours, moving from one cave to another overhang, crawling through bushes and scrambling over boulders, once again with that adventurous feeling I had on earlier rock painting discoveries. And, yes, the paintings here were more varied than the ones at Matjies River, more delicate, too. There was even a gallery with miniatures, pictures painted with incredible detail on a few square centimetres. Once again, the artistic capabilities of the Bushmen, more properly known as the San people, proved impressive.

central part of the cave, note the animals in red, but also in white
the first panel at Boontjieskloof (approx. 1.25 m wide)
detail of the centre part of the panel, note the slim bent-over figure – contrasting with the well-proportioned larger ones of the panel
another detail, small-scale playful antelopes
and another detail, all the way to the right-bottom side, more delicately painted antelopes
Boontjieskloof, what I called panel 2 & 3 at the time
a detail of the busy panel of dancers (from the overview): different colour dancers superimposed on each other (approx. 70 cm wide)
a detail of the left panel in the overview (approx. 80 cm top-to-bottom)
dancing women (approx. 60 cm wide)
another panel, different style, with more stylized animals and hunters (approx 2.5 m wide)
some of the miniature paintings

My pictures are from a few sites only, but there is much more, including the link between the engravings further north and the paintings here, in this article.

Next: Capetown

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *