Bushman Art (Southern Africa) c. 100 to 11,000 BP

bushmanThe earliest existing Bushman paintings are thought to be not more than 10,000 years old-yet the tradition of Bushman art is probably much older than that. Excavations in Zimbabwe, for example, have unearthed numerous painted rock fragments dated to between 18,000 and 22,000 years old, suggesting an intense painting period during that time.

Bushman paintings and engravings are found in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The art is extremely varied in subject matter and differs from region to region. For example, depictions of eland tend to dominate much of the South African art whereas kudu and large elephants seem to dominate the art of Zimbabwe. Meanwhile Bushman artists in the Drakensberg area of South Africa and Lesotho continued to paint up to the end of the 19th century and possibly well into the 20th. Bushman art reflects the artists’ belief systems and visions of reality. It is largely metaphorical, not literal. Today surviving Bushmen live only in the Kalahari Desert and the northern Cape.

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