Museums, Art Galleries and Botanical Gardens

ID #4048

Bushman (Bushmen, San) Paintings and Cave Museum, Giants Castle, Drakensberg, Northern Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Drakensberg has long been famous for the rock paintings left behind by the San who inhabited southern Africa for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from Europe.

At the beginning of the 19th century fierce competition for land resulted in the Difecane (Difiqane) wars. As the great chiefs Dingaan, Shaka and Matiwane fought over land and cattle, tribes were fragmented and forced to migrate in an attempt to escape the havoc spiralling across Zululand and Natal.  By the time the Voortrekker wagons clambered over the Drakensberg escarpment in 1838 most of the local tribes had dispersed northwards and the San had fled high up into the mountain passes.

The nomadic San hunted with bone or stone-tipped poisoned arrows while the women collected wild fruits and roots.  They lived in caves and rock overhangs. Recent research has shown that far from just illustrating scenes from everyday life, the paintings reflect the religious beliefs of these hunter-gatherer people. Central to their religion was the performance of dance and music ceremonies, during which gifted individuals were able to enter an altered state of consciousness, called trance.  They believed that eland and certain other animals held a mystical power, which the shaman needed to achieve trance.

There is nothing to beat the sheer excitement of seeing one of these Stone Age galleries.  One of the best and most accessible is the Main Cave, 2-km from Giants Castle Resort. The Injasuti Battle Cave nearby has 750 paintings. Of particular interest is the open air Bushmen Museum at the Main Cave.  Life-like models depict a typical scene around the fire and there is a display of artefacts that have recently been discovered. Visitors are taken on guided tours and a tape-recorded lecture is given on the history and culture of the San. Giants Castle is southeast of  Estcourt, which is on the N3 south of Ladysmith, which is close to the intersection of the N3 with the N11. Follow the signboards from Estcourt. AOBushman

Contct:        Kwa-Zulu Natal Conservation Services
Box 13053 Cascades 3202
+27 (33) 845 1000 telephone
+27 (33) 845 1001 fax
+27 (33) 845 1002 general information

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Last update: 2014-05-11 23:02
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.1

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