What does the art mean?
Rock art is the only means left to tell us how our ancestors thought and how they saw and portrayed their world. Because most rock art belonged to cultures that disappeared long ago, it is now difficult however to understand why the artists painted and engraved, or what their art meant to them. Many researchers believe that the art had religious implications, expressing the art's conceptions of reality and their position in the world around them.
It must have been a means of communication, but with whom? Bushmen artists portrayed their visions of an integrated natural and spiritual world. Did they do this to tell others what they saw during trances or was it a means to contact the earth's spirit and control nature? During the 20th century in eastern and central Africa, people have used and still use rock paintings to bring rain, strengthen themselves and assist their souls through those difficult moments of birth, attaining adulthood, sickness and death. Perhaps our modern beliefs have ancient origins.
African rock art can be looked at in the context of some interpretive themes, including: symbolism, shamanism and people's assumed relations with certain animal species.
Much, if not almost all earlier African rock art, involves symbolism. Not only are geometric and abstract images symbols, but so also are animals and even some human figures.
Probably, shamans in hunter-gatherer societies created many, or even most, rock art images. Shamans acted, and some still act, as connective channels and mediums between the human and spirit worlds.
COMMUNICATION WITH THE DIVINE
In past times, rock art sites were used as places and channels for communication with the supernatural world. In Central and East Africa, sites with geometric designs amongst many other places were used to seek rain and fertility, and in some cases still are.
Many of Africa's rock art sites are still recognised by local people as sacred and some places are still used for ritual purposes when contacting ancestors.