As if South Africa’s Cederberg Mountains weren’t majestic and awe-inspiring enough, they are also home to over 2,500 extraordinary works of art painted by the Bushmen, or San people. These ancient images feature humans, animals, and birds, as well as scenes of dancing, hunting, and shamanistic rituals. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat is the custodian of over 130 of these extraordinary rock art sites, and we provide our guests with exclusive access to them.
Our Head Guide Gerhard Thom is profoundly knowledgeable about this historical treasure, which is the most long-standing form of art known to man, stretching over a period of 27 000 years. ‘Bushmans Kloof is one of the best locations to see and admire San Rock Art as well as gain a greater understanding of the lives and belief system of a civilization who lived in harmony with nature and not against it,’ he says.
What is rock art?
Put simply, rock art is ancient markings on stone made by humans. It’s one of the earliest forms of visual art expression and can take the form of paintings, drawings, etchings, or engravings. Thousands of years old, the pictographs at Bushmans Kloof were made using natural pigments that the Bushman tribes could find, like animal blood, ochre, and plant juices.
Best rock art sites
With over 130 sites to choose from, there’s an amazing amount of rock art to see at Bushmans Kloof. But there are a few that are absolute must-sees. The images of birds at the humorously named Bleeding Nose Shelter site are rare and definitely worth a look. Thought to have been a ceremonial area, this site also contains paintings of animals and humans, including a shaman figure with blood flowing from his nose (hence the name). Human figures also feature in the paintings at Sonya’s Cave. Keep an eye out for the depiction of a giraffe – it’s painted in black, rather than the red of the human figures. And finally, the rock art at Fallen Rock Shelter – considered to be one of the best-preserved sites in the whole Pakhuis region – includes the largest image of a group of Bushman cave dwellers in existence in the Western Cape.
Tips for visiting
Take advantage of the guided excursions from the lodge. Available daily, these tours take in the best sites and enlighten you on the history and mythology of the ancient Bushman tribes and the artwork they left behind. The early morning tour is known to be especially popular, offering a delicious bush breakfast and a gentle hike.
Home to the famed Rudner Collection, the Heritage Centre at Bushmans Kloof is dedicated to preserving, protecting and celebrating the rich and diverse heritage of the Bushman tribes in the Cederberg Mountains. Guests at the lodge can enjoy all that the centre has to offer, from photographs and permanent exhibits – including artefacts such as musical instruments, hunting equipment, and magic paraphernalia – to specialist talks about both the Bushmen and local history. A tour through the Heritage Centre is a great way to enhance and enrich your understanding of the rock art of the Cederberg Mountains and Bushman culture in general.
What to remember
It’s a simple enough adage (and probably goes without saying), but… you can look, but don’t touch. The rock art sites at Bushmans Kloof have been awarded South African Natural Heritage status and some of the paintings have been around for 10,000 years, so please respect the history, ladies and gents, and keep your fingers on your cameras, not the art.
Header Image © Red Carnation Hotels