Incorporating indigenous management in rock art sites in KwaZulu-Natal

by Ndlovu, Ndukuyakhe

Abstract (Summary)
The majestic mountains of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg, formed many millennia ago were home to the Bushmen[footnote 1] or San people. They lived at these mountains for thousands of years before they were colonised by the Bantu speakers and the Europeans. Academic writings for many years have perpetuated the thinking that Bushman people were largely extinct. The dominance of this view in the academic writings was encouraged by historical evidence that Europeans and Bantu speakers hunted and killed Bushmen over the last several centuries. Researchers argue that the extermination of the Bushmen was because they were less human in the eyes of the foreigners, due to cattle raiding. There is still some element of this thinking amongst today’s academics, although research in the last decade is questioning this thinking.

The question of whether descendants do exist is relevant to issues of rights of access to ancestral sacred sites, in particular rock art sites. At present, access to rock art sites is granted on qualification as an authentic fee-paying tourist (or affordability) rather than on group rights to a cultural heritage resource (cultural rights). Based on this, I argue that access to rock art sites is based on qualification rather than by right. This is largely driven by an approach that emphasises the physical conservation and financial sustainability of a site, rather than its spiritual maintenance. It has become clear that the interests in rock art by tourists and Bushman descendants are distinct from each other. Tourists have an aesthetic significance for rock art while Bushmen descendants have a spiritual significance for the paintings. Beyond any doubt, the physically based and financially driven approach has brought new challenges to today’s Bushmen descendants, whom in reaffirming their identities now have a new challenge to overcome. Not only are the rock art sites physically threatened but also they have lost much of their spiritual powers. Their fate lies in the hands of heritage officers who must determine access rights to the painted shelters.

Both the National Heritage Resources Act and the KwaZulu-Natal Heritage Act acknowledge living heritage. However, the existence of this heritage is judged against the physical approach to rock art management. If the practises of descendants are perceived to be a threat to the rock art, they will not be approved. The case of the Duma is a classic example. Prior to the ritual ceremony at Game Pass Shelter, Kamberg, they were informed of the minimum standards for opening a rock art site to public and rules of how people should behave while visiting painted shelters.

While it was evident that there are problems with the two approaches, the spiritual and physical approach, discussed in the thesis, it is important that solutions are identified. I do not believe that one approach on its own will be good enough, for reasons discussed in the thesis. Instead, the two approaches should be implemented together to compliment each other by identifying common grounds. I provide strategies as to how I believe that such a common ground can be reached. In addition, I provide my own analytical thinking as to how these strategies can be achieved.

------------------- 1 There is no general consensus over which term is appropriate. Both terms are considered by some academics to be derogatory or pejorative (Chennels 2003). San means vagabond and was given to the Bushmen by Khoi-Khoi people, because they considered themselves of a better social class, as they had domesticated animals and were more sedentary than Bushmen. However, according to WIMSA (Thoma 2003) the word San is derived from the Hai||om language meaning “people who gather”. It is normally written Saan but it has been accepted to write San. In 1993 the San requested to be called San when referred to as an entire group. If one refers to individual people/groups they like to be called by their language and cultural name i.e. Khwe, !Kung, !Xun, Ju|’hoansi, ‡Khomani, N|u, |’Auni, Hai||om, etc In this thesis, Bushmen is a preferred term, because it is a better-known term among the people who are central to this study. It is used without any insulting connotations attached to the term.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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