David Coulson next to one of his favorite prehistoric artworks, the “Crying Cows” in the Algerian Sahara.
TARA is sad to announce that on Monday June 1st 2020, an long-term friend and TARA supporter, Joan Travis, died in Los Angeles, California. She was 96 years old.
I am not sure when I first met Joan but it is likely that I met her through Dr Mary Leakey, probably soon after Mary discovered the 3.7 million year old Laetoli footprints near Olduvai, Tanzania in the late 1980s. Joan was a close friend of Louis and Mary’s and a founding trustee of the Leakey Foundation. In the early years when Louis Leakey was trying to raise money for their projects at the Olduvai Gorge etc. in Tanzania, it was Joan who raised much of the funding through her network while arranging the lectures and promotional events that made it all possible. Joan was also a close friend and supporter of the now famous women whom Louis recruited to work on the ape research projects he felt were so important e.g. Jane Goodall (chimpanzees), Diane Fossey (gorillas), and Biruti Galdikas (orangutans).
Through Mary‘s introduction, Joan Travis also helped me and TARA in many ways over the years and was home base whenever I went to Los Angeles. My last visit was in July 2018 when Angela Fisher and Carol Beckwith (2 of my oldest friends) were also in town to promote their latest book, African Twilight. Together with Joan, I went to Angela and Carol’s exhibition and lecture at the Bowers Museum and enjoyed a memorable evening. Joan always loved being a part of our team(s) and took huge pleasure in our achievements. She was one of the kindest people I have ever known and I shall miss her. She will be particularly missed by her daughter Cindy and her grandchildren.
In early April this year, David Coulson, as Director of the Cross River Monolith Research Project, along with Ferdinand Smith and Luke Tchalenko of Factum Arte Foundation and TARA consultant Terry Little flew to Calabar, SE Nigeria, to join the Nigerian team led by Professor Abu Edet of the University of Calabar. This trip was the third expedition to document and research the Cross River Monoliths. The Cross River Monoliths are also known as Akwanshi or as the Bakkor Monoliths of Cross River State, formerly Biafra.
The monoliths are carved anthropomorphic stones in forested areas, and are believed to have represented powerful ancestral spirits.
Large numbers of these monoliths have been “stolen” or illegally sold during the last 50 years especially during the Nigerian Civil War. Meanwhile no thorough inventory of these stones has been undertaken until this project. Several of the “stolen” stones have turned up in some of the world’s most famous museums, such as the New York “Met” and the Quai Branly/Louvre in Paris, and in private collections around the world. Some of the Bakkor/Ikom Monoliths are believed to be centuries old but their exact age is not yet known.
TARA’s first and second expeditions in 2016 and 2018 were co-funded by the Prince Claus Fund of Amsterdam but last month’s expedition was co-funded by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation out of the US Embassy in Abuja. The April expedition has been the first of 3 trips planned for this year, part of a Nigerian Rock Art awareness project, supported by the US. The next trip will take place in June and the third in September. Meanwhile the 2019 project team has been expanded to include representatives of the National Museums of Nigeria and representatives from Amandabello University in Abuja.
Apart from training the team members on how to document and conserve this art we also plan to help them promote the heritage so as to create more awareness of its existence, importance and significance. Thanks to TARA’s experience in promoting rock art tourism in North and West Africa, including the training of guides, we hope to assist the museums in this area.
The next trip to document Nigerian rock art will take place in June 2019, and focus on northern Nigeria’s rock paintings, some of which may be several thousand years old. Another visit to Ikom focusing on the Bakkor Monoliths is also planned. Later in the year a major exhibition of Nigerian rock art is due to be staged in Abuja showcasing the work of TARA and partners in documenting Nigerian rock art thus far.
Read about our previous survey and documentation trips as well as the Akwanshi conference of 2018 on these links:
On the return trip back south the team flew down the wild Suguta Valley over huge dune fields reminiscent of the Sahara Desert.
See more images from this trip on our Facebook page: https://web.facebook.com/AfricanRockArt/
Anthony Odera, the manager of Kakapel Cultural Centre shared with us an update on the annual Iteso Cultural Festival.
In 2018, there were an estimated 20,000 people in attendance at the festival from different parts of Kenya, including from beyond Kenya’s borders. Guests included His Highness Papa Emormor the Iteso King.
TARA was instrumental in the establishment of the Kakapel Cultural Centre through our rock art conservation community projects and we are therefore very pleased that over the years, the Iteso Cultural Festival that began with the inauguration of the centre has continued to happen and draw many crowds. Kakapel is one of Kenya’s most important rock art sites, and visitors to the festival are also introduced to the site.
Images from the festival in 2018 courtesy of Anthony below:
Paris-born, Nairobi-resident David Coulson is the personification of a true British adventurer. Having originally made his name in photography and published many books, he is chair of the Nairobi-based Trust for African Rock Art (TARA). Over more than 25 years, he has dedicated his life to discovering, researching, photographing, analysing and preserving rock paintings and engravings – examples of ancient rock art – from around the world, but with special emphasis on the rock art of Africa.
David Coulson was astounded by Qobustan’s range of petroglyphs which stretch across 35 millenia.
Qobustan National Park – officially known as the Qobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape – is a mountainous territory located on the southeast end of the Greater Caucasus mountain ridge, mainly in the basin of the Jeyrankechmaz River. It is riven with deep ravines, known as gobu in Azerbaijani, from which its name was derived. In 2007, it became listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the estimated 6,000 petroglyphs (rock engravings) on its rocks and caves, which cover 537 hectares. These were incised and painted on the rocks between 5,000 and 40,000 years ago. David was excited to visit the site, and Neil Watson met him following a public presentation he gave in Central London:
VoA – How did you come to visit the petroglyphs in Qobustan?
At the time, I was representing Africa and working with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This led me to become exposed to rock art from around the world. The first images I saw of the Qobustan petroglyphs intrigued me a great deal. They resonated for me, as they reminded me of the petroglyphs I had seen in North Africa. I then came into contact with Linda Lawrence, who was an English teacher in Azerbaijan at that time, and she suggested that I should visit the Qobustan National Park in 2008 with the support of the Anglo-Azerbaijani Society. Later in London I was introduced to the Azerbaijan ambassador to the UK, who enthusiastically invited me to visit Qobustan.
The oldest petroglyphs are deeply incised on the rocks.
It was only a two-day visit, hosted by Dr Malahat Farajova, director of the Qobustan World Heritage Site, but it was an amazing experience. The park contains some extraordinary petroglyphs, some of which are reminiscent of the Saharan art that we have documented. It is undeniably true that petroglyphs are often found near the junction of trade and migration routes. As we all know, Azerbaijan was on the Silk Road, assisted by the fact that, around 30,000 years ago, both the Caspian and Black Seas may have been both connected and therefore navigable. I estimate that some of the art could be of that age, which would place it amongst the world’s oldest rock art. However, currently there is some scepticism amongst scholars over this fact, as Soviet archaeologists had a reputation for exaggeration. There is therefore great scope for an authoritative, substantiated study of the Qobustan petroglyphs.
In my view, this could easily be undertaken by a team of experts, led perhaps by an internationally-respected expert with dating expertise, either from France, the US or Australia who have a number of such experts. If this initiative were undertaken, other experts around the world would take the dates suggested by local experts more seriously. It is quite possible that the suggested age is correct, but it needs to be authenticated.
How would you describe the petroglyphs of Qobustan? What technique or style do they exhibit?
An immediate observation is that there are many petroglyphs that are more akin to carvings than engravings. This might be indicative that they are older, particularly as they are in an exposed environment. Rock engravings can endure much more weathering than paintings that are therefore usually found in more protected locations like shelters or shallow caves. Many of the carvings depicting aurochs (extinct species of bison), stags and other animals on the Jingirdagh Mountain are extremely ancient and deeply engraved, but their age remains guesswork until verified. In comparison, many of the engravings found in Africa are stylistically different and many are much more recent.
Qobustan National Park is home to around 6,000 petroglyphs.
It was relatively easy for the artists to carve the rock, which is derived from lava, and thus akin to that found in parts of the Sahara and elsewhere in Africa. The rock is very similar to sandstone, and relatively smooth when finished by the elements. It would be useful to know the age of the volcanoes in the region. I suspect they are far greater than 30,000 years old, but this needs to be established.
There are many hundreds of petroglyphs in Qobustan. For example, you can find up to a hundred on one large boulder, albeit some images are extremely small. During my visit, I only saw two major sites, but there was undoubtedly much that I did not see. Without doubt, the right guides could take us to many sites in Qobustan that are not part of the UNESCO World Heritage site itself. I am hopeful that, in the Soviet period, some scholars charted details and took photographs of every petroglyph. There is definitely scope to produce a modern book, or series of books, that would adequately detail all the major petroglyphs. Ideally, they need to be introduced in the context of petroglyphs found across Europe and Africa, but also in relation to those in countries in the same region, such as Kazakhstan and Iran. I am also certain there is scope for the production of a wonderful documentary film, or series of films, to attract tourism.
The park was recognised as a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
What are your thoughts on the theory by Thor Heyerdahl, allegedly supported by petroglyphs in both Norway and Azerbaijan, suggesting that Scandinavians sailed to Azerbaijan?
I have read about the migration routes, and it is possible that this is correct, but by no means certain. In Heyerdahl’s view, the petroglyphs indicated that the boats used by the Scandinavians and Azerbaijanis were somehow related, but the boats were also similar to those in Egypt. To be honest, we are discussing the events of around 25,000 years ago, so we can only surmise on the basis of the artists’ impressions of the environment and everyday life, as demonstrated in the petroglyphs. Certainly there are some similarities between these and the style of the petroglyphs found in Europe, and many show wildlife and nature that is similar to that found in the Europe of the time as well as North Africa and Asia.
Do the Qobustan petroglyphs feature any mythological beings?
I do not currently have the local expertise to really comment, but it is likely that this is the case. There is undeniable veracity to the viewpoint that petroglyphs have a spiritual basis, in a broad sense. This is often related to Shamanism, so there are frequently depictions of real animals believed by the artists to have special powers. Others may be mythical animals, connected in vanished mythologies with rainfall, and sometimes there are symbols that may have been connected with fertility. I remember seeing some images of human figures in Qobustan incorporating zig-zag lines. Similar designs/symbols are found in different parts of Africa and other ancient cultures, and may be representative of power, as was the eland (antelope) for the Bushmen of Southern Africa.
David in his natural environment – amidst the artwork of ancient mankind.
Aurochs enjoyed a very high status, perhaps because they represented an abundance of food for past peoples, and that is why they are frequently portrayed, and potential interpretations made. However, it is important to be careful when doing so, as petroglyphs often relate to civilisations that disappeared millennia ago and were, of course, not recorded. Just because petroglyphs might signify one meaning in Africa, France or other parts of Asia does not necessarily determine that they mean the same in Azerbaijan.
Petroglyphs are not normally representational art, and were not necessarily created for artistic reasons, as we understand them. Instead, they probably resulted from a need for spiritual expression. Certainly, Southern African Bushmen may have inscribed their art on rocks to ensure their own cultural continuity, perhaps teaching successive generations about their glorious past and the richness of their mythology.
Aurochs are often found in Azerbaijani petroglyphs, and I saw one in Qobustan over which a stag had been superimposed. This is similar to what we see in Africa, where a giraffe might be superimposed over a lion or an elephant, for example, perhaps because the artist wanted to harness the power of the animal underneath. The prehistoric artists may have believed there to be power in pre-existing paintings because of the significance of those animals in their own mythologies.
An inscription by the all-conquering Roman Thunderbolt Twelfth Legion, dating from the 1st century AD.
What is the condition and preservation state of the petroglyphs?
The petroglyphs were generally in good condition, and I only remember seeing one disturbing case of graffiti or damage, probably because Qobustan is located around 40 miles from central Baku and was, until the 20th century, relatively difficult to access. However, one notable exception to this was an inscription on a rock at the foot of the Boyukdash Mountain, left by the Roman Thunderbolt Twelfth Legion in the 1st century AD that is the most eastern evidence of Roman occupation in this region.
The Soviets also played a role in the site being recognised as being of special interest in 1950 and being recognised as a National Historic Landmark of Azerbaijan in 1966. It is important that petroglyphs do not attract too much of the wrong attention and end up being excised from the rocks upon which they were engraved thousands of years ago, as many are located on sites that were sacred to the peoples of the time. Also, the positioning of the petroglyphs reiterates that, even at that time, Azerbaijan was central to trade routes dating back to prehistory. An authoritative, richly-illustrated book could be spectacular and serve to boost awareness of the petroglyphs for experts and tourists alike. Such a project would need a corporate or government sponsor. In 2009, I was involved in producing a book on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lamu Island, which is part of the Lamu Archipelago on the Kenya coast and the oldest continually inhabited town in the country. It was the book that helped transform it into an international tourist destination.
I very much look forward to returning to Azerbaijan and to having the chance to authoritatively study and record these extraordinary petroglyphs at greater length.
To find out more about rock art in Qobustan, visit www.gobustan-rockart.az
To view this feature in Visions of Azerbaijan Magazine, visit www.visions.az
About the author: Neil Watson began working professionally as a journalist in 1995 and became editor of his first magazine in 2000. He worked as Editor and Press Officer for The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) for nine years.
TARA’s David Coulson recently visited and recorded new rock painting sites in Zimbabwe as well as revisiting sites he had recorded over 20 years ago. The expedition was made possible by a rock art Safari guided by David that was organised by Pierre Jaunet of Catalina Safaris at the beginning of May this year. While some of the sites were sites already documented by TARA in the 1990s, and more recently in 2016, David was also able to document two remarkable shelters that appear to be little known and only rarely visited.
Zimbabwe’s rock paintings (Bushman/San paintings) are some of the most interesting and remarkable on the African continent, and some are thousands of years old dating to well before the Bantu people’s migrated southwards from central Africa. The art is amazingly diverse involving a lot of complex people scenes and a lot of geometric symbols as well as a multitude of animals. On an academic and scientific level TARA collaborates with the National Museums and with the University of Zimbabwe.
New Sites rock art sites recorded in May in eastern Mashonaland
MANEMBA This site was reached by walking for a couple of miles from where we left the landrovers through semi arable land with patches of undergrowth and occasional baobabs to the base of a huge granite mound ably 500 feet high and about a mile long. These hills are regular geological features in Zimbabwe and are known locally as “whale-backs” as they resemble the smooth grey backs of those ocean giants emerging from the deep.
Climbing steeply up the granite slope we could see above us two long, low caves, like giant eyes, half way up the mountain, and were aware that one of these was probably the rock shelter we were looking for. As it turned out it was the upper shelter that was the painting site – about 70 metres long but only around 10 metres deep. All along the back of this were hundreds of red, black and orange paintings, none of them particularly big, but some of them beautifully drawn and very detailed.
There was a line of the most beautifully painted Buffaloes I’ve ever seen, each animal about 35 cms long, several magnificent looking warriors with head dresses and quivers full of arrows and several elephants and lions. There were also a number of depictions of shamans in trance. In that the available living area beneath the shelter was not at all deep I suspect that this may gave been a ritual rather than a living site. The paintings were probably at least 2000 years old and maybe older.
CHAREWA The second “new” site we visited (Charewa) which I had never heard of or seen in any rock art publication was an even bigger shelter, perhaps 100 metres long, near the base of another granite whale-back, full of hundreds of beautiful paintings including a number of huge, in some cases life-size, elephants, mostly white.
Meanwhile in the centre of the shelter’s rear wall was a huge long yellow animal facing right, perhaps 3 or 4 metres long. The creature had short legs and most resembled a hippo, generally regarded by the Bushmen (San) as a powerful rain animal, meaning that it was believed to have the power to bring rain.
At the left end of the shelter were two cream coloured elephants, near life-size, with dark outlines, and painted over their bodies were a number of beautiful smaller infilled paintings of antelope, buffalo, giraffe and elephant. In my experience this site is one of the most important bushman sites we have recorded anywhere in Southern Africa.
Pierre Jaunet and David Coulson of TARA had talked for a number of years about collaborating on a rock art safari in Zimbabwe. Not only is the rock art here exceptional but the bush country with its granite mountains is incredibly beautiful. Visiting the sites involves a lot of hiking through rugged landscapes adding to the enjoyment and adventure. This year we (David Coulson & Pierre Jaunet) organized our first one (an all-French group) and plan to do one or two each year for those interested, going forward. Pierre is bilingual and French is my second language.
Pierre specialises in old style, comfortable safaris but not “luxury” ones in a modern sense. Transport is in 4×4 Landrovers and there is a lot of enjoyable walking and hiking to get to the sites. When driving we pull in under a huge old fig tree at lunchtime and Pierre has a special metal table that folds out from the side of his Landrover (specially adapted) where he prepares and serves delicious French, alfresco lunches at “midi” of tomato salad, avocados, french cheese, prosciutto etc. And a glass of white wine or cold beer for those who want (there are fridges in the landrover). In the evenings we pull in at a little inn or hotel somewhere, nothing fancy but always comfortable and convenient. We can also arrange to camp if need be.
In the evenings I talk to the group about the art and the places we are going to as well as well as my many personal adventures traveling and exploring the African continent over the last 30 years. Meanwhile Pierre also has a wealth of his own stories particularly from the time when he owned a Catalina Flying Boat and took clients, like Bill Gates, on safari in it, landing on Africa’s lakes and rivers.
In February 2018, TARA’s David Coulson travelled to Gabon in order to record little known rock engraving sites originally documented by local archaeologist, Richard Oslisly. The main sites (rock engravings) are located near the banks of the Ogooué River, a huge river which branches off the Congo River in the DRC about 1,000 miles south west of central Gabon. These sites also fall within the boundaries of the Lopé National Park which is home to lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, forest buffalo, red forest hog, forest elephant and mandrills.
The Ogooué River in the Lope National Park.
The rock engravings are mainly geometric in design with frequent depictions of concentric circles which are probably the earliest engravings, perhaps over 3,000 years old, but there also Iron Age engravings dating from roughly 2,000 to 2,500 years of age. These include non-geometric dotted images of what sometimes look like civet cats or lizards presented as though they were skins hanging on a wall! There are also depictions of what appear to be ‘throwing knives’ (remains of an actual throwing knife can be seen in the Lope museum) and also arrow heads.
A strange and very unique feature of some of the art here is the long, snake-like lines of interlinked circles resembling chains. This is also strangely poignant when one thinks of the hundreds of thousands of slaves who must have been transported down the nearby Ogooué River from the Congo during the 18th and 19th centuries. Could it be that the chain engravings are much more recent than we think? They certainly appear more recent than the concentric circles. The latter were typical of numerous other sites recorded throughout East and Central Africa stretching into Congo Brazzaville and Gabon, dating from the late Stone Age, probably made by forest hunter-gatherers.
One of the rock engraving sites with the river in background.
Concentric circles and ‘chains’.
Long, snake-like chain.
Image of a lizard or civet cat, probably created with a pointed iron tool or spear.
Engravings damaged by park officials trying to clean them with wire wool.
Sunset over one of the many lagoons.
During the course of November 2017, David Coulson of TARA led a 4,000 kilometre expedition to the Tibesti Mountains in northern Chad, the highest mountains (3,415m) in the Sahara Desert. The expedition/project was funded by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) which included two rock art expeditions to northern Chad over 18 months.
The first was to the Ennedi Mountains in November 2016, and the second was to the Tibesti last month. The recent trip was also supported by a small grant from the National Geographic Society in Washington DC. The central Sahara is one of the richest repositories of ancient rock art on earth and dates from a time when the Sahara was green and full of people and animals.
The aims of the expedition were:
- To document rock art sites using both high resolution digital photography, D-Stretch Enhancement and Photogrammetry
- To sensitise individuals from the University of Ndjamena and from the Ministry of Culture concerning the rock art of this region as well as its importance and vulnerability.
As part of the sensitisation activities, TARA has designed and produced an exhibition which is now in Ndjamena and will soon be opened at the National Museum where TARA will be represented by Terry Little.
Also accompanying the expedition was a distinguished group of TARA supporters, including a well known international travel journalist, Lucia van der Post, who had been commissioned by the London Financial Times to write a story on the trip.
The expedition consisting of six Toyota Landcruisers left Ndjamena on Nov 3rd and routed up the eastern side of the country via the town of Abeche, not far from the border with Darfur (Sudan). After crossing the 16th parallel, the group camped just for one night at the edge of the Ennedi mountains (see map below) in an area rich with rock painting sites, mostly dating from the Pastoral period of Saharan rock art (2,000-5,000BC). From here the expedition travelled north west via Faya Largeau in the direction of the Tibesti, crossing huge tracts of desert and eventually reaching a massive crater known as the Trou au Natron, whose rim is at 9,000 feet above sea level. The crater is 700m deep and maybe 8 kilometres wide.
The return journey took the expedition through the southern foothills and canyons of the volcano, Emi Koussi (3,415m), the highest mountain. Amongst this wilderness of cathedral-like peaks and rock towers are some wonderful and important rock art sites. Some of these, David Coulson, TARA Chair, had seen on his first Chad visit in 1996.
Expedition Cars crossing sand desert.
Red cliffs, Ennedi Mountains.
Mt Emi Koussi (3,415m) on horizon.
Pastoral period paintings with more recent white camels.
High in the Tibesti Mountains.
Looking out of a painted cave.
Pastoral period paintings c.5,000BC.
Chadien archeologist, Dr Nangkara Clison with Dr Ahmed Oumouss.
Decorated figures, probably painted around 7,000 years ago.
Photographing rock paintings at an important cave site.
The Royal Geographical Society – Hong Kong invited David Coulson to speak on “The Rock Art of Africa: 25,000 Years of World History and Climate Change on the World’s Biggest Canvas”.
The prestigious event was introduced to RGS members and guests as follows:
“Residing in Africa for more than 40 years, British adventurer and photographer David Coulson has discovered and documented more rock art sites across the continent than anyone else. On the way, he has accumulated many amusing stories, including being charged by elephants and frequently lost in desert sandstorms.
In the Kalahari, Mr Coulson spent long periods with the Bushmen when he photographed some of their ancestral art. In Egypt’s Western Desert, he used modern photographic techniques to map the trove of faint images in a huge underground cavern known as the Cave of Swimmers, because of the front-crawl-like depiction of the figures.
Other African rock art discussed in the talk includes a collection of 8,000-year-old anatomically accurate carvings of nine running giraffes on an ancient riverbed in Algeria, the largest measuring 27 ft from muzzle to hind hoof. In addition, he talks of a series of white circles the size of dinner plates that migrating Stone Age hunter-gatherers painted on a granite hillside in eastern Uganda, roughly 1,500 years ago.
David Coulson is a photographer, writer and African explorer as well as being a specialist in African rock art. In the 1980s and 1990s, he worked out of Kenya as a professional photographer and writer, and his books and articles were published across the world. It was during his many travels for these projects that he became aware of the richness and diversity of Africa’s rock art.
He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Trust for African Rock Art, founded with the help of Dr Mary Leakey and Sir Laurens van der Post. Since its inception, TARA’s work has been supported by a number of well-known international institutions such as National Geographic, and the Getty, Ford and Andrew Mellon Foundations. During this, he has driven the equivalent of at least three times around the Earth. Mr Coulson also spearheaded the Focus on Your World international photo competition on the Environment in the early 1990s sponsored by Canon. The competition, of which David was also a judge, attracted 32,000 entries from 140 different countries, the biggest photo competition ever held. He is the author of African Rock Art and Namib on Namibia’s coastal desert.”
Location: The Bloomberg Theatre, Hong Kong.
Date: Tuesday, 26 September 2017.
TARA Chairman, David Coulson was invited to deliver a paper at an African Rock Art Conference at the British Museum in London in November 2016.
The conference was organised by the African Rock Art Image Project of which TARA was the founder in 2014. The conference was timed to coincide with the opening of an important South African Art exhibition, South Africa, the Art of a Nation. The exhibition was curated by Chris Spring of the British Museum and by the famous South African artist, Karel Nel. The two curators who David has known for many years gave him a preview of the exhibition. The exhibits included two large TARA images by David of Bushman rock paintings in the South West Cape, South Africa, taken in the 1990s.
At the conference, whose central theme was Conservation, David talked about the threat posed by lack of awareness at government levels across Africa and the need to address this challenge. In order to illustrate the issue David used three 2016 TARA projects as case studies in his presentation.
- A rock art conservation project in Zimbabwe where millennia old bushman paintings are threatened by independent church groups who have “set up shop” inside important caves with rock paintings, some of them classified as National Monuments , where fires burn regularly to keep the worshippers warm destroying the paintings in the process.
- A project on a small island on Lake Victoria, in Uganda waters where unknown and little known paintings and engravings have been researched and documented. Here TARA has worked with the Uganda Museum and with the local communities to create awareness of the arts importance, both locally and nationally. An important site here has already been badly vandalized.
- A project in south east Nigeria (Cross River Monoliths) where anthropomorphic and phallic monoliths have been documented including 3D photogrammetric recordings. These monoliths were created centuries ago by forest dwelling peoples and represent powerful ancestral spirits. Unfortunately many have been damaged by fire, vandalism and theft.
The British Museum conference sought to act as a forum of debate about the different methods in which digital technologies can be used to record, manage and present rock art information in Africa.
Attendees discussed the best strategies to deal with the challenges of the digital revolution, considering how to bridge the gaps between institutions, professionals and local communities throughout the continent to protect this unique heritage.
The African rock art image project
The African rock art image project was launched in 2013 to catalogue, curate and disseminate c.25,000 rock art photographs across Africa, originally from the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA), with the generous funding of Arcadia.
Over a five-year period (2013–2018), the project will catalogue, contextualise and disseminate the core of TARA’s rock art collection, c. 25,000 images from 19 African countries from north, east and southern Africa. They cover the majority of the most important regions of rock art in the continent, as well as an excellent selection of the main styles, chronologies and themes of African rock art.
To learn more about the project, visit britishmuseum.org/africanrockart
Exhibition curators Karel Nel (left) and Chris Spring (right).
TARA’s David Coulson recently led a Royal African Rock Art Safari to northern Niger’s Air Mountains. The group was accompanied by Rhissa Agboulah, Minister of State for Security in Niger, an old friend of David’s. The group flew into the capital, Niamey, on the Niger River, and then on to Agadez by internal flight where the safari began. Agadez was for many years known as the Gateway to the Sahara.
The Air Mountains are composed of ancient volcanic craters and the many thousands of rock engravings testify to more fertile times dating back several millennia. The first destination for the group was Dabous, an ancient lakebed between Agadez and the Algeria border. Situated on an outcrop above this lake is one of the world’s most spectacular pieces of rock art, a 6,500 year old life-size carving of two giraffes. After TARA documented the site in the 1990s, it was hailed internationally as one of the world’s greatest pieces of prehistoric art.
The visitors were traditionally welcomed at Dabous by a large group of Tuareg pastoralists, mounted on camels and accompanied by chanting women. The following day the TARA group continued their journey, stopping near the little town of Iferouane where they camped near a recently discovered rock engraving site known for a remarkably Christ-like image which dominates the site.
The group traveled through a wide variety of desert environments including some of the world’s highest sand dunes and were shown several exceptional rock art sites. The largest of these was Iwellene which boasts several thousand rock engravings and covers an area of at least 10 acres. The oldest of these are two life-size engravings of elephants, each engraved on its own boulder. The engravings may well be more than 10,000 years old. There is also a large rhinoceros from a similar period. Some of the most exceptional art here dates from the so-called Libyan Warrior Period (roughly between 1,500 and 2,500 years old)
The Sahara has one of the richest rock art concentrations on earth, almost all of it dating from a different climatic era when the Sahara still supported large human and animal populations. When the Sahara began to dry up some of these cultures moved to the Nile Valley where they helped found the great civilisation of Ancient Egypt.
Royal African Safaris is an international Safari company with both a North American and an African base. David Coulson is a Fellow of Royal African Safaris. See www.royalafricansafaris.com
Towards the end of 2016, TARA moved their Nairobi office from Warai South Rd in Karen to Ndege House plot, 3, Kwarara Rd, Langata (off Ndege Rd).
The move was part of a cost cutting operation through which TARA hopes to benefit. The new offices consist of 3 converted 20 ft container units, two of which were originally created in 2004 to house TARA’s extensive photo archive.
This was where the original scanning of TARA’s analogue collection was carried out with the support of the Andrew Mellon Foundation.
In November 2016, TARA’s David Coulson led an expedition to Chad’s Ennedi Mountains (Sahara) to document a little and unknown rock art site in this remote 17,000 sq mile wilderness.
The expedition was supported by the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) and was a collaboration between TARA and the Factum Arte Foundation of Madrid who are experts in 3 dimensional gabapentinoral.com recording of art.
This was TARA’s third expedition to the Ennedi. The first visit took place in 1996. During this last trip the team was able to record a number of new and, in some cases, ancient art, some of it at least 7,000 years old.
In October 2016, with the support of the Prince Claus Fund from Amsterdam and in collaboration with the University of Calabar, TARA organised an expedition to survey and document the Cross River Monoliths, also known as the Ikom Monoliths.
This project is the brain child of Professor Solomon Abu Edet of the University of Calabar. These remarkable anthropomorphic and sometimes phallic monoliths have long been threatened by fire, theft and vandalism as well as neglect.
The project was a collaboration between TARA and the Factum Arte Foundation in Madrid. Factum are experts at 3 dimensional recording of art. The monoliths represent powerful ancestral spirits to whom offerings are still made. The total numbers of monoliths is now thought to be less than about 250. Some monoliths found their way out of the country and can now be found in major museums. Experts believe that some of the stones might be as old as 1,500 years of age. The Cross River is situated on Nigeria’s border with Cameroon.
TARA has been archiving high resolution images of the monoliths with associated data as well as 3D imagery of the stones. This project has shone much needed light on these endangered masterpieces of long ago.
TARA’s Executive Chairman David Coulson led the expedition to document little known anthropomorphic monoliths. The standard of carving of these monoliths is exceptional which probably explains why some of them have found their way illegally into some of the world’s most famous museums. The Nigerian government have historically neglected Cross River State, scene of the Biafra civil war of the 1960s and done little to develop the roads and infrastructure here, let alone developing the area for cultural tourism.
The team held important meetings with the community and David Coulson addressed an annual gathering of Chiefs showing them awareness banners in order to emphasise the importance of this heritage. Meanwhile with the help of a drone and other technology they were able to document the 3 dimensional aspects and context of the stones.
Dolwe Island is a beautiful, little-known island in the north east (Ugandan) waters of Lake Victoria, about two hours in a motor boat from the mainland. Only about 50 square kilometres in extent, this island has many important archeology features which speak of a rich and as yet unknown past stretching back thousands of years. This project is a collaboration between TARA, the Uganda Museum and the Prince Claus Fund of Amsterdam.
The main goals of the project are to document as many new and existing sites as possible and to create an awareness locally, as well as nationally, of the importance, diversity and frailty of this art as well as the probable antiquity of the heritage. TARA first visited the island about 20 years ago and began recording its paintings and engravings. The island is covered in remarkable granite outcrops and perhaps the biggest area archeological mystery here is the existence of an estimated 20,000 carved/ground hollows in the granite, each roughly 15 cms deep and 40 cms long which occur in large groups, often closely packed together.
Given the fact that just creating one of these hollows using stone tools might have taken months and months to do over what time period were all these hollows made, and for what purpose, and who made them? The most important painting site was first recorded in the 1960s by archeologist Merrick Posnanski, Curator of the Uganda Museum, and has already been damaged by serious graffiti, emphasising the need for awareness. The following images give an idea of some of the features and sites recorded.
TARA Chairman, David Coulson, is currently in Zimbabwe working on a joint project with the National Museum and University of Zimbabwe (Dr Ancila Nhamo), supported by the Prince Claus Fund of Amsterdam. Already he and the team have recorded a remarkable new San painting site in the Makonde region north west of Harare. In his opinion these paintings are among the most beautiful and exceptionally preserved paintings he has recorded and could be as much as 2,000 years old.
The main panel has about 150 paintings and is dominated by paintings of Kudu antelope as well as a multitude of dancers and hunters. At the top is the rear section of a big animal which might be a hippo, the front part having been washed away by a water seep. The setting of the site is beautiful. It is located amongst huge lichen-covered boulders and brachystegia trees.
Kudu are part of the antelope family which includes the eland. Together with the eland, kudu are among San groups in southern Africa considered to be totemic or power animals. These animals are credited with special powers such as the power to bring rain or to heal. In Zimbabwe the special power-animals are kudu and elephant with giraffe also being special. Meanwhile in South Africa the main power animal is the eland.
Zimbabwe’s rock art is diverse and remarkable and some paintings have been dated to over 7,000 years of age. Coulson and the late Alec Campbell have recorded rock art extensively in Zimbabwe in the past (see Zimbabwe gallery), but there is a huge amount of art still to be documented. Certain areas are known for the quality and abundance of their paintings including the area with the photographed site.
This site had been illustrated in a book published in the 1980s, but few people knew about the exceptional beauty of its main panel. We have not in recent years been able to fund the documentation of these important sites due to lack of support. This time, however, TARA is collaborating on this conservation and awareness project with the National Museum of Zimbabwe and with the University of Zimbabwe.
An important theme of this project is that a number of important rock art sites in Mashonaland, in particular, have been occupied in recent years by Independent Church groups who sometimes build fires to keep warm and the fires create soot which covers and often destroys millennia old paintings. So one of the project initiatives, led by Dr Ancila Nhamo is to do everything possible to create an awareness in these church groups and communities of the antiquity, importance and frailty of this art. This project is one of a number of important TARA projects supported by the Prince Claus Fund of Amsterdam. See more images below of sites documented as part of this project.
Camels: often called “ships of the desert”, you see them on the horizon, you see them at waterholes, you see them winding their way through palm groves and through sand dunes, throughout the Sahara.
You also see them on the rocks where they were carved or painted long ago. Yet the camel is a relative newcomer to this ancient land. The first camels to have reached Africa are believed to have arrived somewhere around 500 BC and to have gradually moved west across Northern Africa.
One of the reasons for our extensive knowledge about the camel’s movement and distribution in Africa is the ubiquitous images, both painted and carved/engraved, which adorn boulders, cliffs, and canyons in the Sahara desert. Not surprisingly, this period of rock art is known as the Camel Period, distinct from the earlier but overlapping Horse Period (and the even earlier Pastoral Period).
We have recorded hundreds of camel images now in the TARA archive and also accessible online through the British Museum’s global digital collections. These images are rich in camel period iconography such as saddles, trappings and weapons.
The history of the camel in North Africa is inextricably linked with trade and caravan routes. But today camels are found as far south as Kenya and Somalia. Most of the southernmost camel art TARA has recorded is in northern Kenya.
Interestingly however, we have recorded camel rock art even in South Africa. The engraving from the Northern Cape is visibly young looking since it is not highly patinated.
The Camel Period is the last identifiable period of North African rock art and since it started in the 1st millennium BCE, the practice has continued right up until recent times. Yet despite this and despite the exceptional quality of some of the images, it is the least studied period, perhaps because it is the youngest.
One general indicator for dating rock art which applies to camel art and to earlier periods of art, is that the earlier periods tend to be more naturalistic in style, and the later periods increasingly stylised and schematic. The camel art of the Sahara is a remarkable testimony to the crucial role that this animal has played in the exploration and development of some of the world’s most remote areas and carries with it a wealth of other historical and cultural information about the Sahara and neighbouring regions.
Time is however not on our side. On our trips we are finding more and more damaged art, not just by vandals but by oil and mineral exploitation activities as well. Despite the quantity of camel art which we and others have recorded over the years a huge amount still awaits documentation and may soon be lost for ever.
Trust for African Rock Art is looking for new staff members to add to our team!
To help us co-ordinate our growing portfolio of rock art conservation projects in Francophone countries we’re searching for recent graduates or current university students who are French speaking to intern at TARA.
And if you’ve been enjoying our articles on the website and our social media posts and would like to take those to the next level, please apply to be TARA’s next communications officer.
Download the complete job descriptions below for full details, and kindly share with your friends and networks!
Communications officer position: Communications Officer, TARA job description
French speaker internships: Internships available at TARA, job description
Note: all positions are based at our Nairobi offices.
In May a team from CNN flew to Kenya to make a film for their Inside Africa Program. Their plan was to make a film about rock art sites threatened by destruction in western Kenya.
Visit to site in Nairobi National Park
Soon after their arrival they were taken by TARA Chairman, David Coulson, to a rock painting site in the Nairobi National Park accompanied by armed Rangers. (On their way to the site they crossed the fresh tracks on the path of a black rhinoceros, Africa’s most dangerous and endangered animal!) The paintings at this site are thought to have been made by hunter gatherers between 200 and 100 years ago.
The team, led by TARA’s David Coulson and Josiah Kabiru, Community Projects Manager, traveled first by small aircraft to Kisii in western Kenya. Here they met celebrated sculptor and long term friend of Coulson’s, who took them to a site which Coulson had documented 10 years ago but which has been almost entirely destroyed since then. Kisii is an area known for its soapstone carvings and sculptors. Here we heard from the elders who have been unable to stand up to the local businessman and contemporary sculptors who we understood don’t care about this ancient art which is of course the origins of their present tradition. Kenya’s National Museum have tried to save this site but without success.
Kisii to Lake Victoria
The following day the team flew on from Kisii to Lake Victoria to visit other sites documented by TARA during the last 15 years in order to investigate reports of possible damage to the art. Although tourism to the sites has waned in recent years the local people are proud of this unique heritage and one particular success story Is small school near one of the sites which has been built almost entirely with funds received by the village from visitors to their rock art sites.
The CNN feature is scheduled to air on the 26th of June, so mark your calendars!
Last month we hosted a group of 20 learners and parents from the Sheba Home Schooling group on a visit to learn more about rock art in Africa.
The morning began with a presentation on rock art in Africa and Kenya by David Coulson followed by questions from the learners. The learners seemed interested and asked questions regarding dating of rock art and how one can know the intentions of the artists; all questions archaeologists ask regularly.
After the presentation we gave the group a chance to get up and walk around for a rock art tour, with printed images and banners. Coulson also brought out some archaeological remains (lithic tools) acquired on various trips in the Sahara to make the link between rock art and archaeology.
The group was mixed age and all were accompanied by parents. The parents were just as keen as the students on discovering rock art. They were so amazed that they had never learnt about it in school that one of them quipped, “I should ask for my school fees back!”
After the visit the parents were able to integrate what they had learnt about rock art into their studies. Mrs Joyce one of the parents says, “The rock art sites in Kenya (eg Kakapel, Mfangano Island, and Turkana) were a good discovery. We discussed it during our Social Studies class and this helped to show my daughters how Art and Social Studies principals integrate.”
If you’re a group or school and would like to learn about rock art or schedule a visit, write to us on email@example.com and we’ll plan a half-day or full-day visit with you.
TARA’s rock art exhibition opened in Niger last week at Oumarou Ganda Cultural Centre in Niamey. The exhibition highlights the richness and diversity of Niger’s rock engravings and will run from 10th to 23rd May. After this it will travel to other locations in the country. The exhibition could not have been possible without TARA’s Nigerien partners, ANIGOURANE, and the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation who have supported the project since its inception in 2015.
Before the exhibition opened university students, among them TARA’s former intern Hamidou Moussa, travelled to schools around Niamey to speak to students about Niger’s rock art using the cultural mediation technique Hamidou introduced while he was at TARA. The Ministers of Tourism, Culture were in attendance at the opening ceremony and the exhibition has been well received so far. It is hoped that this exhibition will sensitise many to not only the beauty of Niger’s rock art, but also the potential rock art holds for community development.
Last weekend, a long-planned survey trip to Kitui County in South Eastern Kenya yielded two new rock art sites. The survey undertaken by Emmanuel Ndiema, Head of Archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya, and David Coulson, founder and chair of the Trust for African Rock Art (TARA) was hoping to record two previously unrecorded sites that had been reported in 2015 by Dr. Ronald Mulwa, a Senior Research Scientist at the National Museums.
New sites are often mentioned to TARA (some real, some not) but what sparked Coulson’s interest was that a few years ago he recorded a geometric site in Tsavo East not far from the Kitui County border. The reported new sites appeared to be in the same general area. One of the objectives of this trip therefore, was to see if the art at the new sites might be from the same ancient tradition as the Tsavo East sites.
These paintings done in red and white paint do appear to have links with the earlier recorded Tsavo ones, and with other examples of prehistoric art common to the Eastern and Central African region. They mainly comprise concentric circles and other geometric art, and date to a time when the region was part of the Central African rainforest. According to Coulson, these sites are some of the best he has recorded in Kenya ever.
The area where the paintings are located is full of granite hills and outcrops with lush valleys in between. The trip involved steep climbs up slippery granite slopes to reach the deep shelters and caves in which the paintings are located. All geometric art, the paintings consist of strange and often beautiful symbols created long ago probably by hunter-gatherer artists. Although we will probably never know the exact meaning of these symbols, studies of other African hunter-gatherer groups such as the San in southern Africa, or the Hadzabe and Sandawe of Tanzania give us clues as to their possible meaning.
We ran a social media series highlighting ways in which girls, and more broadly, women, show up in or influence rock art as we celebrated the International Day of the Girl late last year. As we mark the International Women’s Day today we share 3 links we found between women and rock art.
Girls are authors of rock art
In ancient Cahuilla North American rock art, girls undergoing initiation into womanhood painted spirit helpers they had seen in visions in visible sites in their communities at the end of their initiation rites. This is similar to a tradition in Malawi. In the Dedza-Chongoni area of Malawi, a secret initiation rite known as the chinamwali marks girls’ entry into womanhood. While the girls learn stories, songs, and expected behaviour and roles from older women, they paint on the rocks as a mnemonic device.
Girls and women are depicted in prehistoric art
This frieze is from a shelter in Namibia’s Brandberg. It shows a row of young girls possibly walking to their initiation and with a guide at their helm. A San painting, it is finely detailed: the girls wear what might be beads across their heads and some form of headdress. Fascinatingly, a barely there figure is painted behind the girls perhaps indicating a spirit helper or guide. Around the girls, animals known to be revered by the San and considered reservoirs of potency, such as the giraffe and antelopes that might be kudu or springbok, are painted as well.
This is only one of more representations of women in African rock art. In other paintings, women are shown tending to herds of cattle, in various domestic scenes, or participating in healing dances.
Girls and women discover rock art
In 1879, Maria Sanz de Sautuola accompanied her father, an amateur archaeologist, to a cave on their property that he had been investigating. While her father worked, Maria wandered off deeper into the cave. Happening to glance upward, she screamed out to her father to come see the amazing oxen-like creatures that were painted on the cave’s ceiling. She had just discovered the cave paintings of Altamira, Spain.
Closer home, the only currently-active woman Somali archaeologist, Dr. Sada Mire, blazes a similar trail. She moved to Sweden as a teenager when civil war started in Somalia. It was in exile that a passion for discovering her own history developed and she decided to study archaeology. In particular, the sentence, “In order to write African history, we need to do archaeological research” found in a book inspired her ambition. She has discovered numerous prehistoric painting sites including the only one known to depict sheep (Dhambalin) in Somaliland.
“This rock art has a teaching. It shows how people lived some time back, in caves, and they painted to let us know they lived here and what was there.” 12 year old Esther about the Kakapel paintings
In our outreach work we seek to reach students and share with them the great heritage that is rock art. Our travelling exhibition ‘Dawn of Imagination’, for example, incorporated student engagement in the form of essay competitions, and rock art knowledge games. Below are some excerpts. Just like Mary Leakey was inspired by cave paintings she visited at a young age to pursue a lifelong career in archaeology, and human history, we’re hoping prehistoric art will inspire generations of young women, and men, to be interested in their rich past.
Late last year, TARA was invited to take part in a fashion event, ‘Where Art Meets Fashion’ where three fashion designers, Deepa Dosaja, Harriet Patrizi and Tim Redo would be showcasing their work. But one might ask what does rock art have to do with a fashion show? There are rock art images in which human figures are dressed or decorated (fashionably) but our participation in the fashion event began as an opportunity to reach out to new audiences and raise awareness of rock art and of our conservation work, but it turned out to be much more: it provided an opportunity to consider rock art in a different light.
As the event started to take shape, the three designers and a contemporary visual artist, Mwini, came to our offices in Karen to learn about rock art and TARA’s work. A lot of our conservation and archiving efforts have been aimed at enabling archaeologists access research material. But through engaging with these artists, we began to consider the value of rock art as part of art history more. After all rock art is the first form of visual art. This shift in thinking also allows us to make rock art relevant to people today in a different way. Rock art served as an inspiration for the artists who interpreted it in their own pieces at the event: a new form of engagement with rock art. Mwini’s work for example, re-interpreted engravings and paintings in classical motifs found around the continent.
At the event, TARA’s founder, David Coulson gave a speech, and during the whole event rock art images from around the continent were projected. We also had a stand with leaflets on our upcoming safaris and we held a silent auction. All in all, the event was successful; we were encouraged to see the positive reactions of people towards our work.
2015 was a great year for archaeology and rock art. Featured on Archaeology magazine’s recently released list of the top 10 archaeology discoveries of 2015 are Homo naledi (of course), earliest stone tools found yet from Turkana, Kenya, and significantly for rock art, the Sulawesi paintings. These hand stencils and paintings of pig-deer in Indonesia were dated up to 40,000 years ago making them among the oldest dated rock art so far. And they are significant because they finally put to rest the ‘lightbulb’ theory of human symbolic thought. The Sulawesi dates rival those of European rock art and indicate that symbolic thought had likely developed in Africa before humans migrated to other parts of the world.
At home, TARA continued with its survey and rock art conservation work especially with trips to Niger, Northern Kenya, and Morocco, where we organised a workshop for conservation practitioners. We also ran our first ever crowdfunding campaign that managed to reach people in about 73% of the world’s countries- how’s that for putting rock art on the map!
So what’s in store for rock art and TARA in 2016?
New discoveries! TARA is always recording new rock art to add to our 25,000 strong image archive; and in 2016 we plan to do so with improved methods and in new locations! We are planning a trip to a new country- Gabon- to record rock art in the Lope-Okanda National Park and World Heritage site (you can come with us!)
Another recording trip in the works is to Ennedi, Chad to record sites using laser scanning, the technology whose use revealed the likely presence of hidden tombs inside Tutankhamen’s tomb.
We are excited to do more outreach work in 2016 to keep raising awareness of rock art, and keep building on previous years’ work. What’s more is that TARA will be celebrating 20 years since its founding in 1996. Keep in touch to find out how we’ll mark this occasion and how you can participate. A happy and adventurous 2016 to you!
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On Friday the 15th January the Italian Cultural Institute was re-opened after renovations. During the opening, people got a glimpse of the upcoming TARA-curated travelling exhibition by UNESCO: “In Search of Kenya”, which will begin its journey through the country from the Alliance Française in Nairobi later this year. The full exhibition aims to show the immense variety of Kenya’s intangible heritage. What is currently on display at the Italian Cultural Institute, however, focuses on Northern Kenya, a theme chosen because of the institute’s interest in the region.
While the images selected for the exhibition are too few to cover all of Kenya’s intangible cultural heritage, they certainly show some of its breadth. Cultural practices, economic activities, dances (music and songs one needs to imagine still), clothing, jewellery, colours, all set in Northern Kenya landscapes are represented. The selection also includes rock art images, because rock art conveys strong intangible heritage values.
TARA has had an active role in producing the travelling exhibition. The 50 plus images selected for the exhibition come from our extensive archive and thus show the scale and depth of our expertise in the field of cultural conservation, expertise that we have developed over the past 20 years, and that goes beyond rock art.
‘In Search of Kenya: The North’ –exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute, Westlands, Woodvale Close 1, Grenadier Tower 5th floor. Open 15 Jan to 31 Jan. Entry is free to all.
Rock art makes up one of the most important records of human thought. It also throws important light onto past histories and cultures. Africa has a great diversity of rock art and one of TARA’s main missions, in partnership with UNESCO, is to safeguard this unique rock art heritage. One of the countries that has taken the lead in conservation and valorisation of rock art in Africa is Morocco.
As a follow up to a Theft and Vandalism workshop in 2010, TARA recently organised a 3 day conservation workshop in Agadir titled ‘African Rock Art at Risk: Facing the Challenges of Conservation and the Issue of Development’. The workshop was organised with the support of Morocco’s Ministry of Culture and the Prince Claus Fund. The aims of it included examining the current status of rock art; identifying the most threatened sites; and devising a plan of action to document rock art and undertake necessary measures to protect it. In attendance were representatives from at least 10 African countries where rock art is present: Morocco, Mali, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.
At the conference we heard from different speakers from around the continent how the biggest threat is a lack of awareness at all levels about the existence, importance and antiquity of rock art, which automatically leads to neglect and damage. Different strategies were proposed to deal with this including awareness and educational strategies, as well as community oriented projects. In particular, community engagement and empowerment in countries where the State is not pro-active in rock art conservation emerged as key requirements for conservation. We heard about vandalism and management failures and of mining companies being allowed to destroy rock art sites by their governments.
Two notable and innovative solutions from the wealth and diversity of experience at the conference were:
(a) In response to a problem in Zimbabwe where local independent churches have taken to holding services and lighting wood fires in rock art shelters and caves, and the smoke from the fires blackens the walls and ceilings and the rock paintings. The proposed strategy is to sensitise the priests and prophets to the spiritual and national importance, and antiquity of the art. This would be in addition to communicating the possibility of paying visitors coming to see the paintings if they preserve them by making their fires elsewhere.
(b) In response to a need to document large numbers of as-yet unknown engravings in Niger’s Aïr Mountains, the rock art Association, ANIGOURANE, have been training, equipping and thus empowering local Tuareg people to document their own sites and create their own rock art archive.
Following the workshop participants were taken by the Morocco Director of Culture, Dr Abdelah Alaoui to visit a newly recorded rock art site and conservation project south of Agadir. The rock art in this area dates from the Pastoral period and consists of rock engravings on loose rocks and boulders depicting wild animals such as elephants, as well as cows and bulls. The Ministry of Culture has erected a Conservation Centre here which also serves as a house for the site custodian and as a museum for archaeology and rock art in the region, in what is a good example of active State involvement in rock art conservation.
The workshop endorsed the words of Kofi Annan, “It is time for Africa’s leaders to take a new and more active role. We must save [rock art] before it’s too late.”
by David Coulson
Date: 07 December 2015
From 2012-2014, the Getty Institute ran an African-Australian rock art project that involved workshops and knowledge sharing between rock art specialists, managers, and custodian communities. In August 2014, participants in the project, including Terry Little, TARA COO, travelled to Kakadu National Park for the the Southern Africa-Australia Rock Art Conservation Exchange.
This recently produced book is the culmination of these deliberations and reflections by rock art experts on their experiences working with rock art heritage in both Africa and Australia. The report includes sections on what rock art is, its importance and threatened status, and creative ways and tools communities have used to engage with and conserve rock art. The authors, Neville Agnew, Janette Deacon, Terry Little, Nicholas Hall, Sharon Sullivan and Paul Tacon also set out foundation principles and a vision for rock art conservation. It is a book that would be useful to organisations and people interested in rock art conservation anywhere in the world.
You can download the whole report on the Getty Institute website.
Date: 26 Nov 2015
In addition to leading the recent safari to Niger in October, TARA also checked on the progress of the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation funded community project we have been implementing alongside Nigerien rock art preservation organisation, ANIGOURANE. The project which began in 2014 has its focus in the Aïr Mountains of Niger, a region with numerous rock art sites including the famous Dabous giraffes site.
Unique about this project is the focus on conservation through the involvement of the largely nomadic local communities in documenting the many rock art sites present in the Aïr Mountains, in addition to raising awareness about the importance of rock art as heritage. To this end community members received training and equipment to enable them document rock art wherever they found it.
Other components of the project have so far included an internship for Nigerien culture student, Hamidou Moussa, and the filming and production of a documentary film on Niger’s spectacular rock art. The project will culminate in an exhibition that will take place in January 2016, at which time the film will also premier.
Date: 05 Nov 2015
In October 2015, TARA Chairman David Coulson led a special private 10 day Safari to Niger’s Aïr Mountains. The expedition was accompanied by Minister Rhissa Agboulah, special Advisor to the President on Security. During the safari, which began in Agadez, the group were greeted and entertained by traditional Wodaabe and Tuareg dancers including 70 Tuareg on camels in all their finery and near Iferouane they attended a traditional camel race through the desert.
Meanwhile David took the group to visit important rock engraving sites in the northern Aïr that he first recorded 20 years ago. The area is now one of the safest parts of the Sahara to visit but tourism continues to suffer as a result of bad publicity concerning Niger’s neighbours. The visitors were all given a great welcome by nomads and villagers they met.
TARA offers a number of rock art safaris every year as a way to raise money to support efforts to document and preserve African rock art. Find out about upcoming safaris here.
Date: 03 Nov 2015
In the far north of Kenya, bordering on Ethiopia is Lake Turkana, a 300 km long lake set in often wild desert scenery. Today the home of Turkana pastoralists the area is also known as the Cradle of Mankind due to the number of fossil remains of early man found here- including some of the oldest ever discovered.
A TARA team recently participated in the three-day Turkana Cultural Festival held in Lodwar, the capital of Turkana County. The festival’s theme was Tobong’u Lore: welcome back home, and it not only paid homage to the rich archaeological finds from the area with lectures from palaeoanthropologist Dr. Richard Leakey, and a presentation by TARA; but also to the culturally rich and beautiful, yet little known and appreciated, landscapes in the county.
At our stand we interacted with the public sharing information about the rock art found in Turkana County and hearing from people who had seen rock art in places TARA is yet to survey. Many questions pertained to the ‘usefulness’ of rock art to people. Having Anthony Odera, Kakapel Monument site manager, and Hoseah, Lokori Community Rock Art Project co-ordinator, with us helped to show the possible economic and cultural benefits that rock art could have for communities living near it.
Date: 19 October 2015
TARA welcomes one more Kenyan intern, Deborah, who will be with us till the end of the year.
Deborah will be graduating from the University of Nairobi in December 2015, with a Bachelor of Arts degree, having majored in Tourism and Psychology.
She says: “Having an interest in Kenya’s tourism sector in terms of the involvement of host communities and the benefits they can get from tourism activities, combined with a love for art, I believe TARA’s various activities like community projects, research, communication, documentation and heritage preservation will help me gain first hand experience in, contribute to, and enjoy rock art!”
Date: 05 October 2015
TARA welcomes a new group of Kenyan interns who will be with us until the end of the year. Mark joins us after having completed his Bachelors degree with a major in Archaeology and a minor in Geography from the University of Nairobi, Kenya.
While with us Mark intends to learn about various TARA activities including rock art community projects and research, and he is also keen to participate in other archaeological activities such as rock art surveys and fieldwork. He is currently working on updating and fact-checking various TARA publications such as ‘The rock art and other attractions of Suba District‘, following feedback from the Abasuba Peace Museum Curator, Mr. Jack Obonyo.
Karibu sana Mark!
Date: 30 Sept 2015
Last week TARA hosted two scholars attached to the Nairobi National Museum- Njeri Gachihi and Ssemulende Robert. They dropped by to familiarise themselves with African rock art in a general context, and spend some time exploring our rich rock art database before travelling to spend a month at the Kakapel rock art site and monument in Western Kenya. The Kakapel rock art site is rich in paintings and features a mix of red and white animal and geometric motifs.
Njeri is a curator at the Nairobi National Museum, and Ssemulende is studying for his Masters in Archaeology at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania by way of Uganda and interning at the Museum. During their visit, TARA staff gave presentations on various rock art traditions in Africa, and on challenges and opportunities in community rock art conservation. We also discussed varying perceptions of rock art, and challenges faced in other archaeological sites and shared ideas on how to approach the management of archaeological and rock art sites.
Date: 23 September 2015
Along with Hanna, we are also delighted to have Tomos, an intern from Wales, with us for 2 weeks. Here’s what he says:
“Hamjambo! My name is Tomos and I’ll be working with TARA as an intern for the next two weeks. I received a BA in Archaeology from the University of Cambridge with an emphasis on the archaeology of Africa (from the Early and Middle Stone Ages right up to the Iron Age and colonial period). I have since endeavoured to gain more practical experience in African archaeology by working on several archaeological projects in southern Africa as well as working as an intern with the University of Pretoria, RSA.
These experiences have led me to delve into learning about the ins and outs of cultural heritage management in Africa, and combined with the fact that I love African rock art (having admired much of it in South Africa, Malawi and Namibia), working for TARA will be an ideal experience for me!”
During his time with TARA, he hopes to develop his knowledge in the field of rock art heritage, particularly in the strategies used to preserve and promote these cultural treasures. He is also keen to contribute to the sustainability of community projects that TARA is working on in Kenya in order to learn about some of the issues and challenges
facing communities that work to sustain and promote rock art as well as how best to overcome challenges through collaborative efforts. All this in the hope that it inspires his MA in African Studies with Heritage Master’s dissertation which he’ll be working on at University College London from September.
You’re very welcome Tomos!
TARA is pleased to welcome a new intern who will be with us until December this year. Hanna is from Finland and at the moment she is finalising her studies for the cultural policy master’s degree with a major in social and public policy in the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She did a bachelor’s degree in tourism science in Wageningen University, in the Netherlands, from where she spent an exchange semester in the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA, to complete a minor in political theory and development sociology.
About her hopes for her internship she says, “The various activities of TARA closely correspond with my interests, according to which I have also pursued my studies and hope to work with in the future, at an international level, and in both non- and governmental institutions. I am looking forward to learning about the practices of, and to get hands on experience on heritage conservation and community projects and, of course, of rock art itself!”
We’re glad to have you with us Hanna!
15 Sept 2015
TARA participated in the Kisii Agricultural Show that was held in early July in Kisii Town, Western Kenya on the invitation of our partner and sculptor Mr Elkanah Ongesa, and his organisation DEPCONS, Design Power Consultants. This was the first time that either organisation had participated in the agricultural fair but our combined stand showed how the creative arts, both ancient and contemporary, could contribute to development in line with the fair’s theme of innovation for development. Our combined stand also won 3 awards for creativity, demonstration of potential for international co-operation, and community engagement.
The TARA team walked fairgoers – a majority of them students – through a short presentation on what rock art is, and its importance, and answered questions about the presence of rock art in Kisii and associated meanings of rock art in other places.
Rock art in Kisii first came to TARA’s knowledge in 2012 when Elkanah informed us of the destruction of engravings, largely as a result of soapstone mining. Following initial visits to see and document the art, which comprises cupules and concentric circle carvings, TARA, with the support of the Prince Claus Fund, organised a number of community engagers’ workshops to brainstorm along with the community how the rock art could be conserved and valorised. Many community members agreed that in order to conserve rock art, it must contribute to the local economy.
The presence of rock art and soapstone sculptures in the same stand was testament to the hope that ancient creativity can contribute to modern day designs. In this way conservation of rock art and economic exploitation of soapstone could go hand in hand.
After the show we visited Sameta hill, where active soapstone mining was taking place, with a Kisii elder, Mr Elijah Mayieka. He showed us some engravings and cupules, a lot of which were connected to cultural celebrations that involved body painting using white ochre. Many rocks had scrapings and it is likely the cupules were ochre mixing receptacles.
Date: 21 Aug 2015
Most rock art in Africa, and in the rest of the world, is a phenomenon that relates to the continents past yet Kenya’s Maasai pastoralists continue to make rock paintings today. These paintings are made in order to mark initiation ceremonies when Maasai boys become warriors (Moran), a ceremony that takes place roughly every 20 years. Last week TARA Chairman David Coulson travelled down to the Loita Hills in Maasailand to join Professor Stanley Ambrose from the University of Illinois (USA) and his team in documenting an important site where Ol Pul initiation ceremonies have been held for perhaps 200 years or more.
Lindsay Toll, USA, is undertaking internship in July – August 2015. “I received my BA in Anthropology from the University of Kentucky and am now pursuing a MA from the same institution. Concurrently, I am working towards a MA in Development and International Organizations from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. My studies are regionally focused on sub-Saharan Africa. I think the Trust for African Rock Art is a unique way to tie together these two areas, as it recognizes African heritage and history through both domestic and international exposure and education. Protecting and preserving rock art sites requires recognition and cooperation of the local population, local and national governments along with international organizations. I am interested to learn how TARA navigates and negotiates the many stakeholders involved in preservation and excited to contribute to its goal.”
TARA is excited to announce the launch of a two-year collaboration with the Prince Claus Fund. Uniting their resources, both partners are committed to quickly respond to emergency situations concerning African rock art heritage and over this period approximately 7 projects will be selected that will not only have a direct and profound impact mitigating damages but can also serve as examples in the field of rock art preservation. This builds on previous successful projects that TARA and the Prince Claus Fund have collaborated on, including the protection of the amazing life-size Dabous giraffe in Niger and recently discovered rock art sites threatened by mining in Kisii, Kenya.
The Prince Claus Fund was established in the Netherlands in 1996 as a tribute to Prince Claus’s dedication to culture and development. The Fund believes that culture is a basic need and the driver of development.
Moussa Hamidou is joining TARA as an intern for a period from June to August 2015. Moussa has completed a Bachelor’s progamme in Literature, Arts and Communication from Abdou Moumouni University of Niamey, Niger. At the moment he’s obtaining a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Licence professionnelle en Art du Spectacle et Médiation culturelle). Upon graduation Moussa would like to teach ancient rock art history and rock art management. Throughout his internship he intends to learn about various activities of TARA, such as community projects, communications, research, design, archives and documentation. Moussa’s internship has been supported by the USA Embassy in Niamey.
TARA invites you to discover Niger, Ethiopia, Northern Kenya and Eastern Egypt, as well as to read about Lake Turkana and Kalacha festivals.
Also in the newsletter TARA’s Partnership with other organizations, Ancient art become contemporary, Reflection and Outreach and educational programs
For all the previous link click HERE
50 Treasures of Kenya is a Nairobi-based trust, that was set up as a celebration of Kenya’s 50th anniversary of Independence. The founders were inspired to demonstrate to Kenyans the beauty of their country, marking each independence year with one Treasure. Since then, the Trust has been expanding by documenting and promoting less known tourist attractions of Kenya.
Wednesday 27th three members of 50 Treasures visited TARA, expressing their interest in TARA’s activities and collaboration opportunities. The staff of both organisations discussed possible future projects. The meeting ended with a movie show about mysterious Namoratunga site, after which both organisations’ staff bonded over lunch.
Rock art represents the dawn of imagination of humankind. Nowhere on earth is the art so diverse as in Africa, yet so little known. Time is running out for one of the greatest galleries on Earth – the Sahara Desert. TARA’s new 3 minute video shows some of the Sahara’s treasures that have been documented so far. It is still possible to save the endangered unique rock art until it’s lost forever.
The following link tells more about TARA’s commitment to Saving the ancient rock art of the Sahara. TARA needs your support: http://igg.me/at/Saharan-Rock-Art
The British High Commission in Nairobi hosted TARA’s official launch of the crowdfunding campaign Saving Sahara’s Ancient Rock Art on 18th May.
Dr. Christian Turner, the British High Commissioner, warmly welcomed the guests in his Residence with an opening speech, “One of the great joys of being a High Commissioner is that you get once in a while to just put yourself alongside something that you care about and the things you enjoy”.
He expressed his fascination with ancient rock art, sharing his childhood memory on the trip to Lascaux Caves in France and encouraging everyone to support TARA’s initiative.“I’ve always remembered that magic of seeing art from another civilisation and, frankly, not entirely knowing the answers of why they are there, what were they there for, what were the traditions.”
The introduction was followed by the speeches of Dr. Freda Nkirote, Head – Cultural Heritage Department, National Museums of Kenya and David Coulson, co-founder and executive chairman of TARA.
TARA would like to express gratitude to everyone who attended the launch event, despite the “typical British weather”, as Dr. Turner noted. TARA was happy to see so many friends and supporters as well as representatives of partnering institutions and embassies.
It’s the first time TARA is using a crowdfunding platform. Crowdfunding as a means of fundraising is increasing in popularity all over the world because it helps to connect people to projects and shared values and interests. The concept is simple: anyone can create an online project proposal, and anyone can donate.
TARA’s goal is to raise $60 000 in 45 days (18th May – 1 July) to document the endangered rock art sites in the Sahara. TARA branded limited edition gifts are offered in exchange for donations.
Please support us by sharing and contributing on: igg.me/at/Saharan-Rock-Art
May 18 is International Museum Day and TARA has marked it by launching an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign: Saving Sahara’s Ancient Rock Art.
TARA aims to raise $60,000 in 45 days. These funds will support TARA’s missions to document endangered rock art in six Saharan using phentermine weight loss countries: Chad, Egypt, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Sudan. For more details please visit our campaign page:igg.me/at/Saharan-Rock-Art
The TARA team would greatly appreciate if you could support us by spreading the word and helping us to reach our goal.
The French school of Nairobi grade 7 students visited TARA headquarters on Wednesday the 13th of May, 2015. They had a wonderful session learning about the history of African rock art, its diverse locations as well as the artists of the heritage. The students were involved in a number of rock art activities which included a pictorial tour of the African rock art and cave paintings, and a rock art drawing exercise. The visit enriched their knowledge in their curriculum subject ‘History of Art’ while on the other hand,TARA achieved its objective; ‘to create greater global awareness of the importance and endangered state of African rock art’.
Julia Svede from Riga, Latvia, joins TARA as an intern from May – June 2015. She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Management from the Baltic International Academy and studied Media and Communication in Jonkoping University, Sweden. Julia’s experienced in curation of art exhibitions, cultural event management, radio and online journalism, as well as PR and marketing activities.
She is working on TARA’s crowd funding project and developing social media channels. Prior to joining TARA, Julia worked for Collective Art Gallery in Scotland, did a research on Contemporary Art Projects in Historic Sites, and as an intern for Communications Office at ICCROM, Rome.
“It’s my first time in Africa and I’m happy I have this opportunity to gain hands-on experience here at TARA, to learn, to share and to contribute”
PHOTO: Francesca Chiesa in the middle with TARA staff
Francesca Chiesa, the new Italian Cultural Attaché to Kenya was welcomed to TARA on 8 May 2015. She met with Terry Little, TARA COO, as well as the teams from Community Projects and the Digital Image Center to discuss possible collaboration between TARA and the Italian Cultural Centre.
PHOTO:From left, Wangalwa Musa – TARA, Mildred Mutola – FECTO, Josiah Kabiru – TARA, Francis Kodhiambo – FECTO and Terry Little – TARA.
The Federation of Community Tourism Organizations (FECTO) welcomed representatives from TARA at the African Conservation Center (ACC) on 29 April, 2015 . The two teams discussed collaboration to promote their shared objectives regarding community development in Kenya.
FECTO is an umbrella body of community-based tourism enterprises in Kenya. Their work complements TARA’s conservation efforts which include the involvement of communities in the management and conservation of rock art through the development of responsible rock art tourism products. The two parties have agreed to work together by looking at ways to leverage both organizations’ networks and expertise.
Wangalwa Musa is a student of Moi University awaiting his graduation in Tourism Management. He joins TARA for a period of two months until end of June. Wangalwa will be working on the drive to conserve the endangered rock art in Kisii County and the effects and impacts of Kakapel Rock Art Monument in Busia County among other tasks that will, in general, be related to his field of interest and studies in tourism, event planning and community engagement. He is hoping to pursue an MBA in Strategic Management this year and later PR and communications in a bid to position Kenya as the destination that curbs the seasonality of tourism by/and improving awareness on other forms of tourism such as Rock Art. “Working with TARA is a perfect opportunity for me to jump-start my career”
PHOTO: Group photo outside entrance to the Cave with Jean Clottes on extreme left and David Coulson, centre/back
In 2005 the Director of the Chauvet Cave project, Professor Jean Clottes, invited TARA Chairman and founder David Coulson and founding trustee, Alec Campbell to visit the Chauvet Cave in the Ardeche, probably the world’s most famous cave, which had only been discovered the previous year. Jean Clottes had often traveled with David in the Sahara and in East Africa and has been a member of TARA’s Advisory Board for many years. David and Alec’s experience was later replicated in a hugely successful documentary film entitled Cave of Forgotten Dreams now available on You Tube. Visiting this extraordinary cave where the world’s most ancient paintings have been found was an exceptional privilege otherwise only accorded to visiting Heads of State. Now however a complete replica has been made in a separate, modern museum only a kilometre from the original site so that visitors can see copies of the actual paintings in a space that replicates the original cave. The following write up by David describing their visit was published in TARA’s 2005 Newsletter.
Dr Alison Brook a paleoanthropologist and Paleolithic archaeologist from University of George Washington (GW) and also Research Associate at Smithsonian Institute paid a courtesy call at TARA headquarters on 11 March 2015. Dr Brooks met with David Coulson and Terry Little.
Dr Mzalendo Kibunjia, the newly appointed Director General of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), paid a courtesy call to TARA Headquarters on 9 March 2015. Dr Kibunjia met with TARA’s CEO, David Coulson and TARA’s COO, Terry Little. TARA has worked closely with the NMK in the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding for more than a decade and looks forward to working with Dr Kibunjia and his team.
Students from Daystar University in Nairobi visited TARA on 5th March 2015. They were doing research for their upcoming presentation on African rock art. They met with Terry Little and Martin Sande who introduced them to the organization and its objectives. TARA has always enjoyed working with young people in raising awareness on the importance and fragile state of African rock art.
Gershom Talei joins TARA from February 2015 as an intern at the Digital Imaging Centre. He is a graduate of the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Geography major. He intends to develop a Geo-database of the documented rock art sites during his internship at TARA that will facilitate future Geo-spatial information needs for the organization. “I am fascinated by nature and science which is why I plan to improve my skills in Remote Sensing and Geo-spatial Information Science at the post-graduate level”.
Wangũi Kamonji is a recent graduate from Wellesley College where she majored in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies. She is hoping to pursue a Master’s in Archaeology later this year and joins TARA for a 10 week internship beginning in February to gain experience in this field. Prior to working for TARA she conducted a year-long travel research fellowship in various cities around the world. She will be helping out in the Community Projects and Outreach efforts.
Photo: US Ambassador with trainees from the Iferouane Community.
David Coulson and Terry Little from TARA traveled to Niger’s Air Mountains (Sahara Desert) in early February 2015 as part of a joint project with Niger’s rock art association “Anigourane”.
The Niger Rock Art Project was funded through a recent grant from the US Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. In the Air Mountains, at Iferouane, Terry and David cialis conducted training and awareness sessions with representatives from the local community about their rock art sites and how to document them. Meanwhile David took the US Ambassador and her party to visit the now famous Big Giraffe engraving site at Dabous first documented by TARA in 1997.
Photo: David Coulson shows US Ambassador ancient engravings at a site south of Iferouane.
One of the remarkable stories featured in National Geographic Magazine’s First Artists story this month is the story of the Blombos Stones discovered at the Blombos Cave on the Cape Coast, South Africa, in the year 2000, by Professor Chris Henshilwood (University of Bergen). During an excavation Henshilwood discovered pieces of Ochre with abstract markings (cross-hatching) in association with shell beads which had been a necklace and these were dated to around 75000 years of age. Although nobody can tell the meaning of these markings they are undoubtedly evidence of abstract thought and symbolic behavior. David Coulson has met Henshilwood who lent TARA an image of one of the ochres which are now in show in Cape Town at the South African Museum. Interestingly, 75000 years is the date often given for the first major emigration of Homo sapiens to the Middle East and thence to, Europe, the Far East and to Australia.
This months cover story in National Geographic Magazine features paintings from the world-famous Chauvet Cave in southern France. The eminent prehistorian, Jean Clottes was the first scientist to enter Chauvet after its discovery in 1994 and the man who officially announced the discovery to the world. Shortly after the discovery I visited Jean Clottes, a friend and member of TARA’s Advisory Board at his home in the Pyrennees and well remember the tears in his eyes as he described seeing the extraordinary paintings of Cave lions, wooly rhinos and Paleolithic horses for the first time. Some years later Jean took me and Alec Campbell (TARA Founding Trustee) and our wives into Chauvet which was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Jean has often joined us on survey trips in the Sahara and in East Africa.
Gobustan is a beautiful volcanic wilderness south west of the Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan) best known as a UNESCO World Heritage rock art site. TARA Chairman visited Gobustan in 2009 at the invitation of the Azerbaijan government. During his visit he also gave a talk at the university in Baku, the capital. Coulson was struck by the similarity between some of the Gobustan rock engravings and rock engravings TARA has recorded in North Africa. Some of the Gobustan art has been dated at over 20,000 years. Click here to read about, ‘First lady watches Shadows of Gobustan ballet at UNESCO headquarters’
Photo: 6000 year old life-size giraffe carvings in Niger
The January 2015 National Geographic, The First Artists, article talks about the great European Cave sites like Chauvet and Altamira and about African rock paintings from a similar era, in Namibia. National Geographic have been long term supporters of TARA’s work, helping us promote the importance, antiquity and frailty of this heritage. Some years ago the Magazine published a 22 page article by TARA Chairman David Coulson on the rock art of the Sahara and the same year published another story by Coulson on two 6000 year old life-size giraffe carvings in Niger (see image) These carvings have been described as one of the greatest prehistoric masterpieces ever recorded. As more and more remarkable art is found in Africa the question will increasingly arise, “Did rock art originate in Africa, along with humankind?”
Photo: January 2015 National Geographic Cover
Apollo 11 Cave, Namibia
Kenya Tourism Board (KTB) team paid a courtesy visit to TARA on Thursday, 15th January 2015. The team included; Michael Riungu,Research Manager, Fred Okeyo, Product Manager and Muriuki Muriithi, Assistant Product Manager. They were welcomed by TARAs David Coulson, Executive Chairman, Terry Little,Chief Operations Officer and Josiah Kabiru, Community Projects Coordinator.
KTB has been on the front line in encouraging growth of Domestic tourism and as well as developing new tourism products for the destination ‘Magical Kenya’. It is in line with the new product development, that the two organizations have found an opportunity to work together in promoting rock art tourism in the region.
One of TARA’s objectives is to ’promote tourism and build relationships with organizations to develop tourism’. TARA is pleased to have the support of Kenya Tourism Board in marketing six rock art attractions in Kenya through their website. Magical Kenya
This will boost TARA’s conservation efforts as well as promote domestic travel through creation of awareness. Click the link below to read about Rock Art in Kenya. Magical Kenya
International Internship at TARA 2015
TARA welcomes International Internship applications; for more details click the link below.
In early December, TARA was again invited to the Kalacha Cultural Festival in Marsabit County. TARA was represented by it’s Chairman, David Coulson, Community Consultant, Wanjiku Mwangi of Porini and TARA’s intern, Josue Cardenas. The festival was organised by the Kivulini Trust.
This five-day event showcased the diversity of the region’s cultural and natural heritage through artistic expressions, medicinal plants, exhibitions of traditional foods, songs, dances, and a guided visit to a rock art site. Participating communities included: Samburu, Gabbra, Daasanach, Rendille, Boran, Somali, Turkana, Konso, El-Molo, Garri, Burji, Saakuye and the Waata tribe. Nearly 50 performing community groups performed.
This year’s festival brought together pastoralists, fisher folk, metal artisans, hunter gatherer and agricultural communities of the region to share and celebrate their cultural and natural heritage in order to promote cultural diversity, social harmony and sustainable development. The importance of harmony in the region was emphasised by different speakers in the light of the many development challenges which the region now faces.
TARA gave two presentations, the first a keynote speech by David Coulson on the “Treasures of Northern Kenya” with special emphasis on the region’s rock art heritage. The second presentation was a talk to about 100 young people by David Coulson and Wanjiku Mwangi. On Sunday 7th, David Coulson led a trip to the Afgaba rock art site north of Kalacha. About 50 people came on the trip, mainly young people.
Most of the rock art is found along the eastern shores of Lake Turkana and in the northern Chalbi Desert area between the Huri Hills and Lake Chalbi. Most of the animal depictions are of giraffe and sometimes camels. Other animals depicted include antelope and elephant. Geometrics are also common and often occur together with animals. The art could be the work of ancestral Batwa (hunter-gatherers) who were forest people dating from a time when the vegetation was different.
December 11, 2014
Click thumbnail images to view bigger pictures
Kalacha Cultural Festival 2014
PHOTO: Recording sites in the Wadi Umm Salaam
In late October 2014, David Coulson and Terry Little of TARA carried out a rock art survey in Egypt’s Eastern Desert, an area which they have only briefly worked in during the past. They were accompanied on this trip by three friends/TARA supporters. This expedition focused on the central part of the Eastern Desert (Red Sea Hills) between Luxor and the Red Sea. Many of the rock engravings they recorded date back to the so-called pre dynastic period (before the ancient Egyptian (Pharaonic) civilization, roughly between 3500BC and 6000BC, but there were also important sites from the Pharaonic era.
PHOTO: Recording rock engravings including two pre-dynastic boats
PHOTO: Panel of rock engravings featuring camels, warriors and cattles.
PHOTO: Dirk Huyge next to the aurochs engravings that have been dated to more than 15000 years.
On November 2nd/3rd 2014 David Coulson and Terry Little of TARA visited Qurta in Egypt’s Nile Valley between Luxor and Aswan. Here they were privileged to be shown one of Africa’s most famous rock art sites by Dr Dirk Huyge of the Royal Museums of Art and History in Belgium. Dirk and his team have recently successfully dated engravings of aurochs (prehistoric bovids) to at least 15000 years before the present, and perhaps nearer 20,000 years. They have also successfully proven the existence of Palaeolithic art in North Africa.
PHOTO: Dirk Huyge and David Coulson looking at rock engravings on the cliff above.
PHOTO: Panel of engraved aurochs that have been dated to between 15000 and 19000 years before present.
29 pins with many attached resources have been pinned from TARA photographic -website archives and the World Wide Web. A myriad of useful learning materials and hands-on art activities for both teachers and learners contain inquiry or investigation project information, virtual field trips to rock art sites and video footage of ancient rock art in their natural landscapes. Cross-curricular lessons for Geography and English Literacy directly related to ancient rock art have also been included. Whilst there is a primary focus on African ancestral rock art, other countries have been included for both interest and comparison purposes as well as their world significance. Click here to visit TARA’s album
by Diana Loubser
PHOTO: Rock art publications at the exhibition
The National Museums of Kenya, Department of Archaeology invited TARA to exhibit rock art heritage banners. Booklets, T-shirts and posters were on display. This marked the end of the Nairobi National Museum Science Expo whose theme was ‘Heritage and Tourism’. Thanks go to Josiah Kabiru, Martin Sande and Josue Cardenas for manning the stand over the two day event.
PHOTO: TARA staff at the exhibition
PHOTO: TARA staff, NMK staff and NANAMAC art students
In mid-October, TARA H.Q. joined hands with the Nairobi National Museums Art Club (NANAMAC) in a two day mentoring workshop for upcoming young artists selected from different schools within Nairobi. The participants were creatively involved in the drawing of rock art photographs which they interpreted in a contemporary way. On the second day, teams collaboratively decorated a ‘mazera’ stone mural in the lower botanical garden of the National Museums of Kenya. The event showcased modern graffiti symbols blended with ancient rock art representations. The goal of the exercise was to leave a legacy for future generations and to create an educational outdoor space for teachers and learners. It is the intentions of both TARA and NANAMAC to plan an annual activity based on the success of this venture. Thank you to everyone involved in this inaugural workshop.
PHOTO: Art students decorating ‘mazera’ stones of a mural in the lower botanical garden of the National Museums of Kenya.
David Coulson was recently featured, together with other Kenya experts and personalities in an article published in the London Financial Times, October 24. Entitled, “The Thinking Mans Safari” this piece written by internationally renowned travel writer, Lucia Van der Post seeks to promote trips in northern Kenya involving local experts on unusual and thought-provoking subjects, such as African rock art (para). These trips will offer interested and well healed travelers an opportunity to visit millennia old sites in remote locations in the deserts and mountains of northern Kenya. Some of these sites are only accessible by helicopter.
Photo: Lucia van der Post from the London Financial Times with David Coulson of TARA at a rock painting site in Northern Kenya.
Photo: David Coulson talks to Lucia van der Post about a Rock Gong which was once used for divination and rituals.
Europe’s oldest scientifically dated rock paintings are around 40,800 years old (El Castillo cavern, Spain) while older Art might well be discovered in the coming years. Australia meanwhile claims dates of more than 40,000 years for some of it’s paintings while Africa’s oldest dated paintings, so far, are the so-called Apollo 11 paintings found in Namibia’s Huns Mountains in 1969. These were dated at around 30,000 years old.
Africa can also claim the engraved pieces of ochre from South Africa’s Blombos Cave which were dated by an Anglo/American team to a staggering 77,000 years of age. Many experts believe that the people (modern humans) who left Africa around 75,000 years ago may well have brought artistic skills with them and that Africa may be the origin of all rock art. As compared with continents like Europe, Australia and America, Africa has typically been unable to afford expensive dating research and it is possible that some known (and unknown) paintings and engravings may be much older than we now realize.
This has been further complicated by the fact that charcoal was only rarely used in African paintings making it much more difficult to carbon-date many images. What’s more, so much of Africa’s extraordinary art was all but unknown until relatively recently and the assumption by many researchers was that they were unlikely to be old. Now come the latest revelations about rock paintings in Indonesia dated to over 35000 years and once again these discoveries are pointing to Africa as the possible origin of rock art.
For information on Sulawesi rock art , Click here
David Coulson of TARA and Project curator Elizabeth Galvin of the British Museum gave a joint lecture in the BP Lecture Hall, at the Museum, October 6th entitled African Rock art and Photography. David opened by explaining how his original African photographic journey had become a rock art journey under the umbrella of TARA and how he and Alec Campbell had originally created the TARA digital archive. Lisa Galvin then explained how the British Museum are uploading the TARA images and data country by country while describing many of the special features of this collection. The lecture was introduced by Lissant Bolton, Keeper Africa, Oceania and the Americas.
PHOTO: David Coulson of TARA talks to the audience about Africa’s rock art heritage and the TARA collections
The British Museum gave a reception Monday evening October 6th, in their Egyptian Rooms to celebrate the launch of the TARA/BM African Rock Art Online joint project. Continuous screening of TARA images on two screens, located next to the Rosetta Stone, showcased many of TARA’s rock art images from across the continent while statues of the Pharaohs like Ramses the Great looked on from the wings. In his welcoming speech the Deputy Museum Director Johnathan Williams spoke of TARA’s extraordinary achievement in putting together this Pan-African collection and of the Museum’s pride and delight that it is now under their wing. TARA Chairman David Coulson responded by speaking about his own journey which had later become TARA’s journey and about TARA’s delight that the collection should have found such an ideal home. Both Williams and Coulson praised the generosity of the Arcadia Fund for making this project possible.
PHOTO: TARA Chairman and Founder, David Coulson talks to invited guests at the British Museum reception.
On 3 October 2014, 5 students from Daystar University in Nairobi visited TARA with the intention of collecting comprehensive information for their presentation based on African rock art. They met with Martin Sande who introduced them to the organization and gave them a tour of the office. TARA is devoted to working with young people in raising awareness to do with the importance of protecting African rock art under threat.
Photo: TARA staff with Daystar University Students.
PHOTO: Cave entrance about five metres above desert floor. Arched roof with horse-camel period paintings on sloppy wall in Algeria.
‘TARA casts a light on Africa’s rock art’ is an article publication in the Business Destination Magazine. David Coulson has dedicated two decades to finding, documenting and sharing some of Africa’s most fascinating rock art. Click here to read the full article ‘TARA casts a light on Africa’s rock art.
PHOTO: The group photo was at Gunbalanya.
Terry Little, TARA’s COO participated in the Southern Africa-Australia Rock Art Conservation Exchange, August 2014, Kakadu National Park, Australia
Australia and the subcontinent of southern Africa face many of the same issues in the preservation of rock art. Both have a rich heritage of rock art sites and indigenous communities closely associated with them, and both suffer from lack of public awareness of the significance of these sites. During the exchange the participant visited Kakadu National Partk and Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The visit to Australia was a uniquely productive experience in that it enabled an exchange of expertise and knowledge and fostered the beginnings of what are hoped to be enduring contacts. Meetings were held at selected sites with aim of further strengthen links, enhance conservation practice, and study indigenous management practices and sustainable use of sites.
PHOTO: Rock paintings at Anbangbang, Kakadu National Park
PHOTO: Rock paintings at Arnhemland
PHOTO: Driving across the salt-covered Chalbi desert, is like crossing a snow field!
In early September 2014 David Coulson of TARA and Emmanuel Ndiema of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) traveled to the Chalbi and Kaisut deserts in northern Kenya to record a number of new rock art sites. Most of these were engraving sites featuring animals (mainly giraffe) and also geometrics (mainly circles) south west of Mt Kulal. On their return journey they recorded two painting sites at the foot of the Ndoto Mountains near Ngurunit. Meanwhile at South Horr they stopped to address 300 6th and 7th form students at the school to talk about the rock art of this region.
PHOTO: Engraving of concentric circles near Lake Turkana
PHOTO: Our Gabbra guide points to a rock engraving of an elephant and a lion near the eastern side of the Chalbi desert
For more pictures from the survey trip, click on the links below:
TARA was pleased to welcome Dr Hassan Roba, new Program Officer, African Rift Valley of The Christensen Fund to the headquarters on 3 September 2014. TARA has enjoyed the support of The Christensen Fund for its survey and outreach activities in Ethiopia and Northern Kenya. Hussein Isack of Kivulini Trust was also present.
TARA Chairman, David Coulson, was invited to make a presentation at the 7th Hargeysa International Book Fair in Somaliland August 8th to 13th. Somaliland has spectacular rock paintings and his mission was to talk about this art in a Pan African context. The annual Fair aims to enable young people to access a range of cultural heritages and to stimulate the revival of all forms of art and human cialis expression, including painting, poetry, story telling, drama and of course writing. The Fair is the largest celebration of books and writing in Africa. Participants included well known African writers as well as international writers and journalists.
PHOTO: In discussion with celebrated international author/journalist, John Lee Anderson.
PHOTO: Las Geel, one of Somaliland’s wonderful rock art sites.
PHOTO: Turkana men dancing at the festival.
The Lake Turkana Cultural Festival was held in June 2014 in the oasis town of Loiyangalani on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana (Kenya), the world’s biggest desert lake and part of the famous “Cradle of Humankind”. This festival, originally a brainchild of TARA’s, that had been developed in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), has now been held annually for several years. It is a visually enthralling spectacle that celebrates the rich cultural diversity of this part of Marsabit County as well as its enigmatic rock art heritage. The festival, which took place partly in the Festival Showground and partly at the Desert Museum on the lake shore is fast becoming an important tourist attraction. It was opened by his excellency the Governor of Marsabit County Ukur Yatani and Deputy President William Ruto was the chief guest.
PHOTO: Colorful scene with different dancers at the festival show ground.
PHOTO: The wife of a Turkana chief with lake behind.
Josué Cardenas from Mexico began a four-month internship at TARA on July 24. He is a conservator from the school, Escuela de Conservación y Restauración de Occidente, (ECRO), in Guadalajara. He has six years of professional experience as a partner in projects of the Instituto Nacional de Anthropologia e Historia (INAH). Rock art is the field in which he developed his thesis topic and for which has conducted various activities since 2010, both documentation and applied research for rock art conservation. Josué says, “I enjoy working with archaeological objects and especially cave paintings because both are the purest material evidence of the growth of humanity.”
On the 16th-17th of July 2014, TARA’s Josiah Kabiru and Kerstin Rust presented at a symposium jointly organized by the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA) and the National Museums of Kenya. The theme of the symposium was Understanding Oneself and the Others: New Domestic and International Tourism Practices and the Promotion of Heritage and Tourism in East Africa. The team focused on Abasuba Community Peace Museum project in Mfangano Island.
Photo: TARA’s Josiah Kabiru presenting on Tourism and Local communities at the National Museums of Kenya during the IFRA conference.
On 3rd July, 2014, TARA’s Josiah Kabiru and Kerstin Rust attended the launch of Nairobi National Museum Art Club (NANAMAC) 2014 edition at the Nairobi National Museums. TARA will work closely with the NANAMAC in mentoring talented young artist, who were selected from different schools within Nairobi. The Launch was also attended by Purity Senewa and Mwanaima Salim of NANAMAC, the last class of club members and the new incoming club members.
Photo: Participants at the Nairobi National Museum Art Club Launch
In July 2014: David Coulson, founder of TARA, the Trust for African Rock Art and renowned Kenyan sculptor Elkana Ong’esa. David and Ong’esa had a joined discussion on rock art as a window into the cultures and histories of vanished worlds and ask how to preserve this resource for future generations.
The presentation took place at Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington DC.
Photo: David Coulson, Gathoni Kamau and Elkana Ong’esa.
Kerstin Rust began her two-month internship at TARA in June 2014. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from Butler University and will begin a master’s program in International Service Management this fall. Prior to joining TARA, Kerstin worked in several nonprofit organizations with roles in communications, development, and project management. While at TARA, she focused on assisting with TARA’s community projects and fundraising efforts. Her internship at TARA has been both enriching and fulfilling, and she hopes to bring her new knowledge and skills into future roles.
Purity Senewa and Mwanaima Salim from the Nairobi National Museum Art Club (NANAMAC), paid TARA a courtesy visit on 24th June 2014. TARA team; Terry Little, Josiah Kabiru and Kerstin Rust discussed with the visitors on matters about NANAMAC engaging TARA in their future art projects.
‘One man’s mission to save world’s earliest cave paintings’ is an engaging article published in the UK’s Telegraph magazine (21 June 2014) featuring TARA’s David Coulson and his extensive work through survey, documentation and conservation of rock art heritage across the African continent.
Date: 21 June 2014 Telegraph Magazine, London.
Photo: TARA Chairman – David Coulson, giving a talk at Marti rock art site in Loyangalani.
The Lake Turkana Cultural Festival 2014 was held in the dusty town of Loiyangalani which is fast becoming a tourist attraction due to the unique desert environment, the rich cultural lifestyle of the peoples of Lake Turkana and other attractions like the rock art. Loiyangalani means “a place of many trees” in the Samburu Language. This year’s theme was “Embracing cultural diversity for cohesion and social-economic development”.
Photo: The Deputy President Hon. William Ruto, rewarding Miss Tourism Marsabit.
The event was co-organized by the County Government of Marsabit, Local Community Festival Committee, Kenya Tourism Board, National Museums of Kenya and Kenya Wildlife Service. The event featured performances and cultural traditions of at least twelve ethnic communities which live in Marsarbit County: El Molo, Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanatch, Gabra, Burji, Borana, Konso, Sakuye, Garee,and Waata. Deputy President Hon. William Ruto was Chief Guest, the event was presided by Marsabit County Governor Ukur Yatani.
Photo: Samburu Warriors at the festival.
TARA’s participation was supported by the Christensen Fund and the Lundin Foundation. TARA Chairman David Coulson, led dozens of guests to Marti rock art site, where he gave a presentation about the rock art and its importance. Josiah Kabiru, Kerstin Rust, John Githinji and Wanjiku Mwangi were also part of the TARA Team.
TARA welcomed Marc Patry, UNESCO Program Specialist for the East Africa Regional Office, Mulekini Ngulube, UNESCO Program Special for Culture in Nairobi, Hervé Braneyre, Executive Director of the Alliance Francaise, Nairobi and Harsita Waters, Head of Cultural Affairs at the Alliance for a presentation of its work on June 6, 2014. Also pictured are David Coulson and Terry Little
In mid May David Coulson and Terry Little travelled to Ethiopia to conduct a rock art survey in collaboration with colleagues (archeologists) from the ARCCH in Addis (Authority for Research and Conservation of the Cultural Heritage).
Photo: Landscape in Southeastern Ethiopia.
The two geographical areas on which they focused were (a) the Hararghe Massif, near Harar and the Somaliland border, and (b) the SNNP(formerly Sidamo Province) in southern Ethiopia. In the Hararghe area they successfully recorded a number of sites (paintings & engravings) with the enthusiastic involvement of local communities. Although one of the sites had been totally destroyed in the past through vandalism the rest were in good condition considering the probable age of the art. Meanwhile in the south they recorded sites from different ancient cultures one of which was an engraving site featuring geometric engravings. These enigmatic carvings are completely unique in our experience. While in Ethiopia David and Terry also had productive discussions about the importance of rock art awareness at all levels, from senior government to community levels. TARA plans to create awareness materials to try and address these needs.
Photo: (L) Looking at engravings in the Hararghe Mtns. (R) Looking for paintings in a cave.
Photo: Ancient geometric engravings in Southeastern Ethiopia.
TARA is pleased to announce the publication of Rock Art of Kondoa Irangi and Other Attractions, Tanzania.
Kondoa is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The guide has information about the rock art and other natural and cultural attractions around Kondoa as well as practical travel information. TARA priligy dapoxetine collaborated with the Division of Antiquities in Tanzania in the production of the guide which was funded by the US Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation.
For your free digital copy, click here to read or download. Rock Art of Kondoa Irangi and Other Attraction
Find out about TARA’s collection at the British Museum, International Partnerships, Ethiopian heritage exchange with Kenya, African Rock Art and Pan-African Renaissance, Community Projects, Alec Campbell Bequest among other stories.
The 2014 Lake Turkana Festival was launched at Nairobi National Museum this morning (07/05/14). Terry Little, TARA COO, was on hand with the Grace Galmo Boru, County Executive for Tourism, Culture and Social Services, Qabale Duba, Miss Marsabit 2013, Hirya Orre and Marsabit Governor, H.E. Amb. Ukur Yatani. The Festival will take place June 13-15. TARA worked closely with the National Museums of Kenya to launch the first edition of the festival in 2008 in order to promote the rock art heritage found around Lake Turkana.
TARA is proud to announce that one of it’s longest serving staff members, John Githinji (driver), was presented with a “giraffe” medal by TARA’s Chairman, David Coulson, for loyalty and dependability. On a recent visit to northern Kenya he observed David Coulson walking over boulders in 130 degree temperatures and realized he was suffering from serious heat exhaustion. As a result he was able to save him from losing his balance and falling which could have cost Coulson his life. During the same trip Githinji personally discovered a very important ancient rock painting, when the rest of the team had all but given up the search!
TARA is honored to host; Elizabeth Galvin, Curator of African Rock Art Image Project, accompanied by Victoria Suzman, Jorge de Torres and Helen Anderson all catalogers for the project from The British Museum. They are working with TARA from 28 April until 8 May 2014.
The aims of their visit are to collect more rock art images and data; reviewing future collaboration; and planning for an official launch of the project at the British Museum later in 2014.
During their stay, they are working closely with David Coulson, TARA Chairman and George Osewe, Head of Digital Image Centre.
Photo: TARA and British Museum Staff
TARA was pleased to welcome Mme Marie-Claire Maréchaux and Mme Samantha Ripa di Meana to the headquarters on 25 April 2014.
Dr Ahmed Yassin, recently appointed Director General of the National Museums of Kenya (NMK), paid a courtesy call to TARA on 23 April 2014. He was accompanied by Dr Purity Kiura, acting Director of Regional Museum, Sites and Monuments and Sharon Kyungu, PR and Marketing Manager. TARA has enjoyed a long and fruitful partnership with the NMK and looks forward to working with Dr Yassin and his team.
Ever since Gadafi’s regime was toppled in Libya, foreign tourists have been unable to visit the amazing rock art of south western Libya. Now, which is encouraging, a Libyan soldier, Aziz Alhashi has made a film showing grafitti damage in the Acacus Mountains (UNESCO World Heritage Site) and posted it on YOU Tube!
Photo:6,000 year old Libya rock paintings irreparably damaged with spray paint.
TARA has been working in Libya for many years, in partnership with the Department of Archeology in Tripoli and with the Libyan/Italian Archeological Mission. Its objective as been to document the sites and create an awareness of the endangered state of this heritage. These images below are examples of vandalism to sites which TARA has recorded as well as an image from the famous Mathendous site which TARA recommended be listed on the World Monuments Fund 2008 Waatchlist of the World’s Most Endangered Sites.
TARA is now partnering in a joint project with the British Museum whereby the Museum has acquired a digital copy of TARA’s digital rock art archive from 20 different countries. People from all over the world can now enjoy free access to rock art images from countries like Libya through this site. See link
At the end of March/early April TARA Chairman David Coulson traveled to Lake Turkana with Dr. Emmanuel Ndiema, acting Director of Archeology at the National Museums of Kenya, and research fellow, Susan Ongoro.
PHOTO: Journey North to Turkana.
Their mission was to look for new sites and monitor existing sites in this remote region of northern Kenya. During the trip they searched for sites on Moite Mountain south of Alia Bay which is sacred to the local people. Near the lake shore they made an important discovery. A rock painting site probably made by Twa hunter gatherers over a thousand years ago. Although rock engraving sites are not uncommon here painting sites are so far unknown.
PHOTO: Arriving at Lake Turkana.
After visiting other sites near the lake they broke down in their 4×4 Pajero near the edge if the Chalbi Desert. They were rescued by the Catholic Mission at North Horr and towed to the Mission where the Missionary, Father Anthony, tried to fix their vehicle. When all attempts to fix it (electronics) failed he arranged for their vehicle to be loaded on to the back of a truck and driven down to Nairobi, a hot and frustrating end to a productive trip.
PHOTO: Paintings of giraffe and a sunburst geometric.
David Coulson, Terry Little and William Omoro of TARA visited Ethiopia between March 16th and 23rd 2014.
PHOTO: TARA officials visits Mamitu Yilma the Director General, National Museums of Ethiopia.
The first objective of this trip was to meet with colleagues at the ARCCH – Authority for Research and Conservation of Cultural Heritage as well as at the Museum and the Institute of Ethiopian Studies in order to strengthen our partnerships with the Ethiopians.
PHOTO: Recording ancient rock paintings at Laga Oda, Eastern Ethiopia.
The second objective/ part of the trip was for David Coulson and William Omoro to travel to the Dire Dawa region of eastern Ethiopia in order to document several important rock art sites . Our guide on this part of the mission was Dagnachew Leto, a young rock art expert who wrote his Masters thesis on the sites of this area. Some of the paintings here could be several thousand years old but are now endangered as a result of expanding human populations and official neglect.
PHOTO: David Coulson with surveyors at a rock art site near Dira Dawa in Eastern Ethiopia.
Dr. Bea V. Carol, Director of Grantmaking and Dr. Wolde Tadesse, Program Officer from The Christensen Fund visited TARA on 28 February 2014.
The objective was to foster stronger partnership between the two organizations ahead of the proposed rock art survey project in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia. The Christensen Fund commended TARA’s work with community members in heritage conservation and management. Community engagement and partnerships with other relevant organizations are crucial to rock art conservation.
On February 15th/16th TARA Chairman David Coulson travelled to western Kenya to join British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner at Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria. At Dr Turner’s request Coulson introduced him to some of the Abasuba communities whom TARA as worked with over the last 10 years who showed him two of their rock art sites on Mfangano Island. These rock paintings (geometric symbols) were used by the local clans until recent times for rain-making rituals but were originally created, probably over 1,000 years ago, by Twa (Pygmy) hunter-gatherers.
PHOTO: The British High Commissioner Dr. Christian Turner with TARA Chairman, David Coulson, at Mawanga rock art site.
The Twa/Batwa were living on the island when the Suba immigrants arrived from Uganda about 200 years ago as refugees from inter tribal wars raging in Uganda at that time. Although the Twa inhabitants were probably long ago absorbed into Suba society it seems the Suba had a deep respect for their magic and adopted their spiritual beliefs and rituals, especially their rain-making rituals. Today the Suba are proud of this heritage and keen to share it with local and foreign visitors who can contact the Abasuba Community Museum at Sena on Mfangano who can advise them on accommodation, sites to visit and transport. Visits to the sites help to support this remote communities as well as enabling the locals to protect their sites. The Twa paintings on Mfangano are similar to those found in several parts of eastern Uganda as well as in many parts of Kenya.
PHOTO: Dr. Christian Turner and David Coulson with locals at the rock art cave.
Date: 18 February 2014
Thanks to a partnership with the British Museum and support from the Arcadia Fund, over the next four years TARA’s Rock Art Archive will become available online and people around the world will be able to explore and learn more about Africa’s rock art.
The British Museum is cataloguing over 20,000 images from TARA’s collection geographically by country, starting in Northern Africa, and will be continuously adding images to the database. Check the African rock art project page for updates, featured images, and to see how we are using rock art to learn more about Africa, from ancient times through to present day. The first collection of images being presented is from Egypt.
San rock painting, Zimbabwe.
International Internship at TARA 2014
TARA welcomes International Internship applications; for more details click the link below.
International Internship at TARA (PDF download)
We welcome intern applications from university students and graduates in archaeology, art history, conservation/restoration, library science, museology and public administration. Internships can be undertaken individually or in association with a university or other study programme. Internships can be between six and twelve weeks.
TARA joined National Museums of Kenya (NMK) to conduct a Community Engagers’ Workshop at Mount Elgon in Trans-Nzoia County.
PHOTO: Participants at Mt Elgon National Park.
TARA’s William Omoro joined Dr. Emmanuel Ndiema and Dr. Purity Kiura from the National Museums of Kenya (NMK) to conduct a Community Engagers’ Workshop at Mount Elgon Lodge in Trans-Nzoia County, 22-23 January 2014. Dr. Ndiema has been involved in recording rock art in the area for a number of years. The workshop was aimed at mobilising the community members living around Mt. Elgon to recognize the importance of heritage conservation for socio-economic benefit. It was attended by 35 community representatives who were receptive to the conservation message and shared information about other local heritage resources. The participants visited the Chepnyalil rock art cave to appreciate the conservation management currently being undertaken by the Mount Elgon National Park. This management model could be adopted and implemented by the community members in safeguarding their local cultural heritage. The workshop was coordinated by the NMK and financially supported by Prince Claus Fund.
PHOTO: Participants at the workshop.
PHOTO: Workshop participants with Trans-Nzoia Deputy Governor Hon. Stanely Tarus, at Mt Elgon lodge.
PHOTO: Chepnyalil rock art.
TARA’s Chairman David Coulson attended an International Congress on African Rock Art in Paris on 15-17 January 2014. This took place at the world famous Quai Branly Museum on the river Seine in Paris, France.
Organised by the Sorbonne University and sponsored by Total in collaboration with UNESCO, this event was attended by rock art specialists and researchers from a number of different countries including Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, South Africa, Kenya, Somaliland, Namibia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Angola and Zimbabwe.
In his opening address at the start of the proceedings Laurent de Soultrait of the Total Foundation pointed out that it was as a result of his many conversations with TARA ‘s David Coulson over the last 3 years that he had come to recognise the huge diversity and importance of African rock art which is why Total had decided to sponsor this event. Coulson was a member of the Committee of Honour for the Congress which was attended by some 200 people.
During a total of 6 sessions the different speakers focused on a variety of different topics and geographical areas such as the dating of rock art, the interpretation of specific rock art images and sites, different recording techniques, the rock art of Tunisia and new discoveries such as the Cave of Beasts in Egypt’s Western Desert. In session 6 David Coulson gave a keynote presentation on the World Heritage rock art sites of Africa and their future, focusing on the critical importance of engaging local communities in their management and preservation.
The Kakapel community held their annual cultural festival at the Kakapel Community Cultural Centre in western Kenya.
TARA’s Chief Operations Officer, Terry Little and Community Projects Officer, William Omoro joined the Kakapel community at the annual cultural festival held at the Kakapel Community Cultural Centre in western Kenya on 26 December 2013. The festival attracted close to ten thousand people from Kenya and Uganda. Representatives and Turkana dancers were invited from TARA’s community rock art project in Lokori as part of TARA’s efforts to use rock art heritage as a way to link communities. The guests embracing the occasion included: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Arts, Hon. Patrick Omutia; North Teso Member of Parliament Hon. Arthur Odera; Hon. Albert Ekirapa; Prime Minister from the Iteso kingdom, Hon. Emolot; Minister of Environment, Hon. Elizabeth Laini; Hon Grace Matinde Muchuma; Minister of Culture, Sports and Art, Busia County and officials from the National Museums of Kenya.
PHOTO: Guests at the annual Iteso festival.
The main aim of this festival is to valorize the fading traditional practices of the Iteso Kingdom. It offers an opportunity for community members to showcase their traditional songs and dances, wrestling, cuisine, medicines and artifacts. Kakapel is Kenya’s premier rock art site uniting a variety of styles in one shelter. The site is a National Monument managed by the National Museums of Kenya. TARA’s participation in this event was vital to ensuring that the rock art sites which are directly linked to the Iteso people’s cultural heritage are not marginalized but conserved to ensure social, cultural and economic benefit to the Kakapel community and in the region as a whole.
PHOTO: Hon. Patrict Omutia, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Art, addressing the public.
PHOTO: Iteso community still practice wresting as part of their heritage.
PHOTO: Representatives from Lokori community rock art in a group photo with Terry Little at the festivals.
Kenya celebrates 50 years of independence on December 12, 2013, and TARA acknowledges the premier status of Kenyan culture and heritage of its peoples. TARA was founded in Kenya in 1996 and enjoys a strong relationship with the National Museums of Kenya, and a large network of visionary Kenyan professionals. TARA has enjoyed working with Kenyan communities across the country over the years to conserve and promote the nation’s rock art heritage.
TARA hopes that everyone had a peaceful Jamuhuri weekend!
PHOTO:School children line up to enter the Nairobi National Museum which hosted TARA’s ‘Dawn of Imagination’ Exhibition in 2007-08.
PHOTO: Suba Elders present their heritage to VIPs at the Abasuba Community Peace Museum on Mfangano Island at the museum’s grand opening in January 2008. TARA has worked with this community since 2006.
PHOTO: The Australian Government provided support to TARA and the Kakapel Community Cultural Centre in 2013. A celebration of the Iteso Culture took place in July 2013.
PHOTO: TARA has been working with the Turkana community in northern Kenya to document and promote the area’s rock art with support from the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation.
PHOTO: TARA has been working with community groups around Kisii since 2011 with support from the Prince Claus Fund to preserve the threatened rock art engravings scattered around the county.
TARA hosted eleven Ethiopian cultural heritage professionals representing a wide spectrum of Ethiopian culture during November 11-20, 2013. Participants from the Association for Research and Conservation of Culture (ARCC), the Ankober Museum, the Konso Cultural Centre, the Gedeo Cultural Landscape, Ankober Lodge and The Christensen Fund made up the group. International Journalist, Jessica Hatcher from the Daily Telegraph documented the visit.
PHOTO: Dr. Tadesse Wolde (right) sharing with Miss Serkalem Balcha Abera at the TARA head office.
TARA did an excellent job in organising the programme. The visit to TARA’s Headquarters was an excellent introduction and gateway to what TARA is doing and the documentation of enormous wealth of African Rock Art. The documentation facility and the commitment of the staff were inspiring. With support from TARA and others, the local communities have come to appreciate the values of their own cultural properties and engage themselves in the whole exercise of running the management of these delicate cultural properties. It was acknowledged that TARA has a good relationship with the communities in which they work.
The selection of participants was well thought out as different aspects, experiences, and knowledge systems were represented. The collective knowledge base between the fourteen group members was incredible and adds up to many years of wisdom. The group felt they should persevere to do what they can do without being overwhelmed by external forces or discouraged by oppressive political and social interferences. The group was united in their desire to make a contribution to the preservation of cultural heritage; be it through rock art, sacred sites, medicinal plants and ritual, eco-tourism, forest and ecosystem conservation, intercultural festivals, the indulgence of our indigenous foods, restorative farming practices and our traditions as a whole.
Most importantly, the contact with the village elders showed that they were respected and taken as an authority on the history and artefacts of their respective areas. Visitors commented that Ethiopians could learn a lot from this Kenyan approach. Furthermore, the meetings conducted with the communities exposed the challenges and the opportunities that come with the responsibility and the blessing of custodianship of cultural properties. The weaving together of spirituality, local history and tradition, the rock art appears to serve as a foundation and medium onto which local pride, tradition and history can hold onto.
PHOTO: Tour guide Daniel Onyango explaining about the rock art of Mawanga.
The community in unison with the rock art enhances tourism experiences and portrays a holistic view of the region. The Abasuba and Iteso communities were thanked for their hospitality; their indigenous food, traditional dancing and unique style of music, their stories of origin and the sharing of ideas to overcome their challenges. The participants also thanked TARA for taking the initiative to organise the program. Gratitude was expressed to The Christensen Fund for providing its financial support in order to bring Ethiopian people together from diverse backgrounds.
PHOTO: Tour guide George Omugo narrating the history behind the rock art of Kwitone.
Lessons learned were valuable in terms of exchanging ideas about what their Kenyan counterparts are doing and to borrow ideas on strengthening and or establishing cultural and natural heritage conservation projects in Ethiopia.
Rock art presents a special but sometimes forgotten or disregarded treasure. Therefore, the building of cultural awareness, the conservation and management of rock art sites is critical for any cultural heritage to survive.
Ensuring the community is included in the formulation and execution of management planning is crucial regarding the management of any culturally important property. TARA was recognised as having achieved this aspect in their community projects with special reference made to their investment contribution towards the Abasuba Peace Museum, the training of tour guides and its mediation with the tourism industry to popularise local history and cultural expression in Kenya.
Thoughts for the Future
“We must endeavour to consolidate and share our Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Culture between Ethiopia and Kenya so as to inform ourselves with greater knowledge, diverse experiences and mutual understanding.”
“Our combined strength and collaboration will serve us well to secure peace and sovereignty in our food, health and environmental conservation for our time and for the time of those who follow in our footprints.”
The knowledge and wisdom of senior citizens in African countries needs to be harnessed if indigenous language/s, myths and stories that are directly linked to rock art sites are to survive.
It is envisaged that members of the Ethiopia group maintain a working relationship with TARA. The Kenya/Ethiopia Intercultural Exchange was an invaluable experience with more exchanges being planned for the future.
PHOTO: Abasuba women leader Mary dancing with Yonas Beyene Gebremichael to Abasuba song.
From November 11-20, 2013, TARA hosted eleven Ethiopian cultural heritage professionals.
The purpose of this tour was to initiate dialogue with communities in Kenya about approaches to rock art management and cultural heritage preservation. The trip also provided participants with an opportunity to observe first hand TARA’s community projects (Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria and Kakapel, western Kenya) as well as to learn about community wildlife conservation. They were accompanied by TARA’s Executive Chairman David Coulson and TARA’s Community Projects Manager Gloria Borona.
Two rock art sites on Mfangano Island (Kwitone and Mawanga) were visited. The group also met with members of the Abasuba Community and visited the Mwanga Rock Art School which was established from proceeds of tourism at the site. The Abasuba Community Peace Museum is where they engaged in inter-cultural knowledge sharing with the Abasuba Community Council of Elders. Later in the trip, the group visited another TARA-sponsored community rock art site at Kakapel. The group was entertained by community dancers and held discussions with local committee stakeholders. A safari through the Maasa dapoxetine Mara Nature Reserve presented the group with an opportunity to hear more about wildlife conservation.
Prior to embarking on the tour, the group attended a session at TARA headquarters on conservation. David Western, a well known author and wildlife conservationist who followed Richard Leakey in the 1990s as Director of Kenya Wildlife Service and who is well known in Kenya for championing the vital role of communities in wildlife conservation, spoke of his experiences to the group. This was followed by lunch at TARA and a visit to the Giraffe Centre in Karen managed by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife.
The group commented that their interaction with various Kenyan communities was very positive. Joint activities encouraged the forging of friendships and relationship building, whilst at the same time allowing for information and knowledge sharing and candid critique about challenges being faced. Lessons learned were valuable in terms of exchanging ideas about what their Kenyan counterparts are doing and borrowing ideas on strengthening and/or establishing cultural and natural heritage conservation projects in Ethiopia.
The Prince Claus Fund’s Cultural Emergency Response programme celebrated its 10th anniversary on 11 November 2013. The event began with a closed consultation with 17 Cultural Emergency Response (CER) partners, including TARA, and international experts in the field of cultural heritage rescue.
PHOTO:Terry Little discussing TARA projects with Marianne A. Eijgenraan and Ida de Kat-van Meurs.
Terry Little introduced a session on “Cultural heritage under pressure from human development”. There is a trend where more and more cases of imminent need derive from man-made disasters. TARA has witnessed such a situation in Kisii, north western Kenya, where the increasing demand for soapstone as an ingredient for paints and for carving as well as quarrying for construction of a nearby highway has resulted in the selling of ancient rock engravings. Mitigation of significant cultural heritage damages can only be addressed through offering alternative sources of income and highlighting public awareness as to the plight of Kenya’s cultural heritage. Prince Claus provided support to TARA in addressing the situation.
PHOTO:Terry Little introduced a session on “Cultural heritage under pressure from human development.
PHOTO:Terry Little shairing information about TARA’s project in Kisii.
TARA welcomes Taiwan Environmental Information Association members.
Hsiu-Ju Sun and Dora Hui-Ting Hsu of the Taiwan Environmental Information Association (TEIA) presented Terry Little, TARA Chief Operations Officer, with a number of publications following their visit to the TARA headquarters on October 8, 2013.
Today, photographs, films, video, audiotapes, and other digital materials account
for a large portion of the world’s memory and the way we experience life around us. Yet, these sound
and image records are endangered due to constant technological change and the lack of trained
personnel. These problems are more acutely felt in archives, museums, libraries, and other cultural
Sixteen professionals selected (from Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America) will convene in Nairobi,
Kenya to discuss this challenge of safeguarding sound and image collections. They will share insights
from the perspectives of archivists, collection managers, conservators, curators, and librarians in
charge of preserving audio visual materials (that are held within various cultural institutions around
the world). With its rich repositories of cultural and historic heritage resources, Kenya is an excellent venue to host SOIMA : Safeguarding Sound and Image Collections.
The international course, SOIMA : Safeguarding Sound and Image Collections, will: highlight the diversity within cultural institutional contexts, in which, sound and image collections exist; and how specific institutional mandates affect preservation and access; propose solutions to the risks to sound and image collections; and share collaborative ideas to utilize information and communication technologies for sustainability. One of the key topics to be discussed is the value, meaning, selection, and use of sound and image collections, while exploring the potential of sound and image media to transmit knowledge and cultural traditions.
In a remote part of northern Kenya, near some beautiful natural springs in Kalacha Goda, the 2013 Kalacha Cultural Food and Music Festival was held on 24-25 August 2013. “This cultural festival, organized for the second year running by Kivulini Trust highlights the Trust’s commitment to keeping the traditional culture and crafts of indigenous communities alive.”
At the invitation of Kivulini Trust, TARA team members (Chairman David Coulson, Manager of Community Projects Gloria Borona, and Board Member George Abungu) were in attendance. Christensen Fund were the main festival funders. The 2013 Kalacha Festival brought together 13 communities (Borana, Burji, Daasanach, El-Molo, Gabbra, Garri, Konso, Rendille, Somali, Samburu, Saakuye, Turkana and the Waata) to promote the themes of cultural diversity, social harmony, and sustainable development. About 3,000 people attended the festival including over 500 traditional dancers from diverse ethnic groups, including several from Ethiopia.
The festival was also attended by local politicians (such as the Governor of Marsabit County and MPs), other dignitaries, as well as officials from the National Museums of Kenya. “This festival showcased the diversity of the region’s rich cultural and natural heritage through artistic expressions, exhibitions of traditional foods, medicinal plants, and demonstrations of traditional technology.” Local jewelry, textiles, and artifacts were available also.
David Coulson and George Abungu gave keynote speeches under the introductory theme of “Treasures of Northern Kenya”. Dr. Abungu spoke about the importance of recognizing the region’s value in terms of its archeological and paleontological richness. Chairman Coulson spoke about the significance of rock art and the region’s huge tourism potential, also discussing the magnitude of TARA’s community projects.
TARA is looking forward to working with the Kalacha community to develop a Community Rock Art Project focused on the rock engraving site at Kalacha.
The Tanzanian Department of Antiquities and TARA organized activities for elementary students and community leaders on 15-20 August 2013 in Thawi, a village located in central Tanzania and within the Kondoa UNESCO World Heritage Rock Art site.
PHOTO: Community members pose for a group photo.
The overall goal of this project is to engage communities in discussions on strategies for long term conservation of the rock art sites which are severely threatened by human encroachment (cultivation, deforestation, illegal excavations, granite mining).
Over 130 primary school students (from Thawi Juu and Thawi Chini) competed for prizes in quizzes about rock art; both schools received 245 text books for their efforts. A stakeholders meeting brought together 63 community members to initiate beekeeping and forestry projects aimed at providing alternative sources of income. Stakeholders also discussed a reforestation campaign that will see 10,000 trees planted in the Kondoa conservation area.
PHOTO: School groups at Thawi.
Group activities were engaging and benefited from involvement of Kondoa District’s Divisions of Education and of Forestry. Neighbours from the Kolo village who have been involved in previous conservation activities shared their experiences on entrepreneurship and tourism. This project is supported by the African World Heritage Fund.
PHOTO: Books for school groups.
PHOTO: The Rock Art of Thawi.
PHOTO: Cultivation in the conservation area.
The Tanzanian Department of Antiquities and TARA organized activities for elementary students and community leaders on 15-20 August 2013 in Thawi, a village located in central Tanzania and within the Kondoa UNESCO World Heritage Rock Art site.
The overall goal of this project is to engage communities in discussions on strategies for long term conservation of the rock art sites which are severely threatened by human encroachment (cultivation, deforestation, illegal excavations, granite mining).
Over 130 primary school students (from Thawi Juu and Thawi Chini) competed for prizes in quizzes about rock art; both schools received 245 text books for their efforts. A stakeholders meeting brought together 63 community members to initiate beekeeping and forestry projects aimed at providing alternative sources of income. Stakeholders also discussed a reforestation campaign that will see 10,000 trees planted in the Kondoa conservation area.
Group activities were engaging and benefited from involvement of Kondoa District’s Divisions of Education and of Forestry. Neighbours from the Kolo village who have been involved in previous conservation activities shared their experiences on entrepreneurship and tourism. This project is supported by the African World Heritage Fund.
TARA joined the people of Kakapel for a cultural celebration at the Kakapel Community Cultural Centre.
Kakapel Stakeholders, local chiefs and political leaders, and representatives from TARA and National Museums of Kenya at the exhibition of Iteso objects in the Kakapel Community Cultural Centre.
On 06 July 2013 TARA joined the people of Kakapel for a cultural celebration at the Kakapel Community Cultural Centre, located next to the Kakapel National Monument, one of the country’s most important rock art sites. The community showcased their cultural artefacts, cuisine, song and dance, poetry, drama and traditional medicine. The event was based on five themes: rock art, environmental conservation, Iteso cuisine, song and dance and traditional governance systems. Over 700 community members joined the celebration. Four schools participated in the event with an aim of promoting the transfer of cultural knowledge to the younger generation. In attendance were the Busia County Government officials and a representative from the National Museums of Kenya who reiterated their commitment to the promotion of Teso district’s natural and cultural attractions. The festival was a culmination of the project ‘Transforming the Kakapel Cultural Centre into a hub for education and resource generation’ with the funding support of the Australian High Commission. Other project activities included the production of signage, publicity materials, training in financial management and infrastructural investments at the Cultural Centre. TARA and the people of Kakapel thank the Australian High Commission for the support in promoting Kenya’s rock art and other heritage.
TARA and CBAAC organized a colloquium and exhibition of African rock art in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
At the official opening of the ARA exhibition at the AU headquaters in Ethiopia, from left, Nigerian Federal of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke and his PS, Ms. Nkechi Ejele, Commissioner for Social Affairs, African Union Commission, H. E Dr. Mustapha Sidiki Kaloko, among other guest and TARA Executive Chairman, David Coulson (back).
TARA and the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization(CBAAC) organized a colloquium and exhibition on African Rock Art and the Pan African Renaissance in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 21-24 May 2013. The colloquium was timed to coincide with the African Union’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Presentations focused on the current situation of rock art in several countries and examinations of rock art can contribute to the Pan African ideals of shared heritage, development and unity. The participants were drawn from from Egypt, Gabon, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. There were representatives from the African Union, UNESCO and PANAFSTRAG (Pan- African Strategic and Policy Research Group). The Hon. Minister, Nigeria Federal Ministry of Tourism, Culture and National Orientation, High Chief Edem Duke officially opened the colloquium and called for a greater understanding of Africa’s past and its role in shaping African identities. TARA would like to recognize CBAAC and the Government of Nigeria for their efforts in making this event possible and looks forward to further collaboration.
TARA Newsletter 14 is now available online.
Find out about TARA’s discovery activities in Chad, Kenya and Malawi and read about conservation of rock art in Kisii, Kenya and Kondoa, Tanzania not forgetting the Rock Art Community Projects in Kakapel, Mfangano Island and Lokori in Kenya and Nyero in Uganda.
Finally, read more about the exciting new partnership between TARA and The British Museum.
TARA welcomed Hussein and Mercy from Kivulini Trust.
Photo (Left to Right): Hussein Isack and Mercy Gakii from Kivulini Trust with Gloria Borona from TARA.
TARA welcomed Hussein Isack and Mercy Gakii from Kivulini Trust to TARA headquarters on 19April 2013. They met with David Coulson, Terry Little and Gloria K. Borona and discussed generic viagra areas of possible collaboration and support in the promotion and conservation of Kenya’s rock art heritage. They also talked on TARA’s participation on the forthcoming cultural festival in Kalacha northern Kenya expected to take place in August 2013.
Signing TARA’s guest book, Mercy wrote, “Remarkable work”.
TARA launched a community development project in Kakapel.
Kakapel Community Centre
On 24 April a team from TARA launched a community development project funded by the Australian High Commission. The aim of this project is to transform the Kakapel Cultural Centre into a hub for education and resource generation. Kakapel is a National Monument and one of the most important rock art sites in Kenya. The project activities include; infrastructural improvements, signage production, rebranding of the cultural centre, administrative training and hosting cultural days involving school groups to promote the transfer of cultural knowledge to the younger generation. The Kakapel Stakeholders Committee will oversee the implementation of all project activities. TARA wishes to thank the Australian High Commission and the people of Kakapel for their collaboration in promoting the Kakapel Rock Art Site.
Member contributing to discussion
TARA and CBAAC are collaborating in the preparation of a rock art colloquium in Ethiopia.
In the photo: from TARA, David Coulson, Terry Little and Gloria Borona, – plus Lorna Abungu and Aghan Odero from the Kenyan Cultural Centre and Emmanuel Ndiema from the National Museums of Kenya and from CBAAC Prof. Babawale Tunde, Ibraheem Muheeb and Lady Gloria Chuma-Ibe.
TARA hosted a delegation from the Centre for Black African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC), a parastatal organisation based in Lagos, Nigeria on April 17 and 18, 2013. TARA and CBAAC are collaborating in the preparation of a colloquium in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2013 to coincide with the Fiftieth Anniversary of the African Union, “African Rock Art and the Pan-African Renaissance”. The members of the delegation from CBAAC included the CEO of CBAAC, Prof. Babawale Tunde, the executive assistant, Ibraheem Muheeb and the director of exhibitions and museum, Lady Gloria Chuma-Ibe.
A team from TARA conducts community projects follow up in Kisii.
Kisii Rock Art
A team from TARA travelled to Kisii on 22-23 April for a follow-up to the community engagers workshop held in October 2012 in the framework of the project ‘Safeguarding Kisii Rock Art Heritage’. Participants reported that community members were very receptive of the conservation message but there was general consensus that the rock art needs to contribute to the local economy.
Some of the proposed solutions include integrating the rock art designs into soapstone products, negotiating with land owners to ensure the long-term preservation of the sites and further engagement with the community and the county government.
The Project was supported by Prince Claus Foundation.
Kisii Group Picture
Gloria leading discussion
TARA welcomed Les Baillie, Trustee of the Safaricom Foundation.
Les Baillie, former Chairman (2003-2012) and current Trustee of the Safaricom Foundation, paid a courtesy call to TARA on February 26, 2013. The Safaricom Foundation has supported two of TARA’s community rock art projects in Kenya in Suba and Kakapel.
Photo: From Left David Coulson, TARA’s Chairman, Les Baillie, Trustee of Safricom Foundation, Gloria Borona TARA’s Project Manager and Terry Little, TARA’s Chief Operations Officer.
ICCROM Sites and Unit Director visits TARA.
Joe King, Sites Unit Director of ICCROM, looks on as David Coulson, TARA Executive Director, signs a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the SOIMA xanax online 2013 Safeguarding Sound and Image Collections Course which will be held in Nairobi from September 2013. Applications are due March 1, 2013.
TARA welcomed students from Daystar University.
Photo: Terry Little (Left), TARA’s COO and (Right) Gloria Borona, Community Projects Manager, with Daystar University students.
Evelyne, Choba, Edmond, Breda and Victor from Daystar University in Nairobi visited TARA on 13 February 2013. The students are writing a paper on ‘Art in Africa’ and decided to research on TARA as a case study. They met with Gloria Borona who introduced the organisation and its programmes. TARA is committed to working with young people in raising awareness on the importance and endangered state of African rock art.
TARA welcomed a number of its partners and supporters to a reception at its headquarters.
Dr. Christian Turner, the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom together with Dr Idle Farah, Director of the National Museums of Kenya.
TARA welcomed a number of its partners and supporters to a reception at its headquarters on 29 January 2013 in recognition of its new partnership with the British Museum.
In attendance were Dr. Christian Turner, the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom; Mr. David Angell, the High Commissioner of Canada; Dr Idle Farah, Director of the National Museums of Kenya; Alison Coutts, Country Director, British Council Kenya; Christa Meindersma, Director of the Prince Claus Fund and members of the TARA Board.
The event coincided with the visit of Dr Lissant Bolton, Keeper for Africa, Oceania and the Americas and Elisabeth Galvin, Curator of African Rock Art Images, who are leading the British Museum’s project to acquire the TARA Rock Art Archive and make it freely available online.
L to R: Terry Little, TARA’s COO, Dr Purity Kiura, Head of Archaeology Department at National Museums of Kenya and Elisabeth Galvin, Curator of African Rock Art Images.
L to R: Dr Lissant Bolton, Keeper for Africa, Oceania and the Americas, Dr Idle Farah, Director of the National Museums of Kenya.
Right: Alison Coutts, Country Director, British Council Kenya.
Christa Meindersma, Director of the Prince Claus Fund with with the Canadian High Commissioner David Angell.
Dr. Christian Turner, the High Commissioner of the United Kingdom with David Coulson, TARA’s Chairman.
David Coulson, TARA’s Chairman addressing the guests at Reception.
TARA welcomed Christa Meindersma, Prince Claus Fund Director.
Prince Claus Fund Director, Christa Meindersma, with the Canadian High Commissioner David Angell, at a reception held at TARA.
Christa Meindersma, Director of the Prince Claus Fund, visited the TARA headquarters on 29 January 2013. Through the Cultural Emergency Response Fund (CER) TARA has benefitted from the Fund’s support in rock art conservation projects in Dabous, Niger and in Kisii, Kenya.
TARA welcomed a delegation of Chinese News Agency.
Mr Chaowen Wang, General Director of the Africa Regional Bureau of the Xinhua News Agency visited TARA headquarters on 29 November 2012 to discuss ways to raise awareness of Africa’s rock art heritage. Xinhua is the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China as well as China’s largest news agency.
“Captivating Culture”, by Paul Munene, was published in the Msingi Magazine Issue 11 2010 (Safaricom Foundation’s Magazine).
The article captures the efforts in Kakapel, (Western Kenya) by TARA in partnership with the NMK and Safaricom Foundation to help the Iteso community to preserve and protect their cultural and natural heritage.
Inge Herbert, Program Manager in charge of resource mobilisation and communication, of the AWHF – African World Heritage Fund visited TARA on 28 September, 2010. Inge was keen on understanding the work that TARA does across the continent and seeing ways in which both institutions can build on the existing synergies. While at TARA she met with David Coulson, Terry Little and Gloria Borona. Signing the guest book, Inge said “Impressive organisation and wonderful, dedicated people. Looking forward to future co-operation”. TARA aims at strengthening partnerships with the AWHF to fully leverage on the Memorandum of Understanding with UNESCO and World Heritage Centre.
The project aims at conservation of the sites through; increasing local community awareness, basic infrastructure development, conservation plans and promotion of the sites for tourism in ways that ensure the benefits are felt at the local community level. Attending the grant signing ceremony were TARA’s David Coulson, Terry Little and Gloria Borona. They were joined by Donatious Kamamba and John Kimaro from Tanzanian Antiquities Department as well as Achiles Bufure from Tanzanian House of Culture and Audax Mabulla, TARA’s Board member.
Speaking at the ceremony, Ambassador, Alfonso Lenhardt said “When President Obama asked me to serve as Ambassador to Tanzania, I was aware of this nation’s rich cultural landscape and heritage. However, as I travel throughout all parts of this country, I never cease to be amazed at the history, culture, and people of Tanzania. In fact, some of the greatest world treasures are found right here in this majestic land. The Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation gives us opportunities to demonstrate U.S. respect for Tanzania’s unique cultural and historical treasures.” Kondoa is the first World Heritage rock art site that TARA will be actively involved in and we aim to deliver a good product which can be a reference model for other heritage community projects in Africa and beyond.
For this isolated community who haven’t been able to use mobile phones since the opening up of communication networks, this is a big development. Of importance to TARA and the Abasuba Museum is the improvement of communication with the rock art tour guides, which will improve the visitor experiences. Daniel Onyango, the Mawanga rock art site tour guide, says that he can now communicate with his fellow tour guides at Kwitone, the nearby hotels and the museum without any hitches.
TARA’s David Coulson and Gloria Borona attended a grant signing ceremony in Kumi District, Uganda on 21 September, 2010. The grant was provided though the U.S. Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation. The donation of USD 37,000 will be received by Uganda’s Department of Museums and Monuments to preserve Nyero rock paintings and other rock art of the Karamoja region.
Speaking at the at the ceremony, Deputy Chief of the US Mission, Virginia Blaser said, “Various human activities including granite mining, charcoal burning, agricultural activity and graffiti place the Nyero paintings in jeopardy. It is vital that we work together with the communities surrounding these sites to educate those who would destroy these cultural treasures about the richness that the paintings hold for both historians and future economic development in the area.” The Museum and Monuments Department was represented by Rose Mwanja Nkaale, Jackline Nyiracyiza and Emmanuel Ourum.
This request was submitted after a joint survey mission undertaken by TARA and the Department of Museums and Monuments in September, 2009. When speaking at the ceremony TARA’s executive chairman underscored the importance of engaging the local communities in conservation efforts. The small but colourful ceremony was attended by dozens of community members who entertained guests with traditional songs and dance. TARA and the Museum and Monuments Department used this opportunity to enter into a five year Memorandum of Understanding to work together to conserve Uganda’s rock art heritage.
Aghan Odero the Director of KCC (Kenya Cultural Centre) visited TARA on 16 September 2010.
PHOTO: Aghan Odero, Kenya Cultural Centre Director, visits TARA
While at TARA, Aghan, along with KCC Board Member, Lorna Abungu, met with David Coulson, Terry Little and Gloria Borona to discuss possibilities of partnerships/joint projects between the two institutions. Key to the discussions was the need to leverage on the two organisations strengths to take advantage of opportunities in the cultural heritage sector in Kenya. TARA aims at forging linkages with other cultural institutions in Kenya to achieve its rock art conservation mandate. Aghan was very pleased with TARA’s work and said it was an ‘eye opening experience’ to see the work it is engaged in across Africa.
The Institute of Museum and Library Services, Washington DC, in partnership with the Getty Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation and the Heritage Preservation, donated 15 new titles to TARA’s Library. These publications, which are designed to assist organisations in caring for their collections, are valuable additions to TARA’s ever-growing library collection.
- African American art; the international review of; Hampton University Museum (2007)
- Capitalize on collections care; Heritage Preservation Inc (2007)
- The care of prints and drawings; Margaret Holben Ellis (1996)
- Caring for American Indian Objects; Sherelyn Ogden, editor (2004)
- Caring for your family treasures; Jane S. Long and Richard W. Long (2000)
- Field guide to emergency responce; Heritage Preservation Inc (2006)
- IPI Media quick reference; Peter Z. Adelstein (2004)
- A legal primer on managing museum collections; Marie C. Malaro (1998)
- Manual of housekeeping; The National Trust (2006)
- Museum handbook, Part 1, Museum Collections , Chapters; Museum Management Program (1990-2006)
- The nature of conservation; a race against time; Philip Ward. (1986)
- Photographs; Archival care and management; Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Connor (2006)
- Preservation management for libraries, archives and museums; G. E. Gorman and Sydney J. Shep, Editors (2006)
- Promoting preservation awareness in libraries; Jeanne M. Drewes and Julie A. Page (1997)
On 24 – 26 August 2010 a team of TARA staff members travelled to Mfangano Island to evaluate the progress of projects at the Abasuba Community Peace Museum. This trip offered an opportunity to train the tour guides of Mawanga and Kwitone rock art sites on good customer care relations while conveying the history of the rock art sites and of the Abasuba people.
PHOTO: Jack at Mfangano
The team also reviewed progress of an outreach programme for school children funded by a grant from EPA Ecole (Ecole du Patrimoine Africain) in Benin.
Joining the TARA team was Eliza Wilson-Powers from the United States who had been on a 6-week profession exchange at TARA to assist in the DIC – Digital Imaging Centre.
PHOTO: Kwitone Rock Art Site
PHOTO: TARA Team at Kwitone Picnic Site
An article Promoting Peace by Rock Art, by Evan Mwangi was published in one Kenya’s leading newspapers, The Daily Nation on 31 July 2010. The article highlights the efforts of the curator of the Abasuba Community Peace Museum, Jack Obonyo, in promoting peace and reconciliation as well as protecting the cultural and natural heritage of Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria, Kenya where the museum is located. TARA has enjoyed a long partnership with the museum.
Date: 31 July 2010
Ramanus Asango an intern at TARA since February 2010, joins TARA as an IT assistant and Website Administrator. His main task will be in uploading the CMS version of TARA’s website, updating it , expanding the photo gallery and making the online gift shop functional. He was a student at the University of Sunderland where he studied applied business computing. Ramanus has a passion for art, culture and heritage.
George Osewe joined TARA in March, 2008 as an exhibition attendant at The Rock Art Gallery in the Nairobi National Museum and later as a supervisor. George has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry, Egerton University. He joins TARA’s DIC – Digital Image Centre to digitise the ancillary collection of images by David Coulson- this follows the groundwork undertaken by Eliza Wilson-Powers during her six-week professional exchange to strengthen the value of TARA’s core collection of rock art images.
Benson Masero joined TARA on August 19, 2010 on a 4-month internship in the community development department. He is a B.Ed (Science) graduate from Kenyatta University and an MBA student at the University of Nairobi. Previously he had worked as a teacher in various high schools within Nairobi before he took up a voluntary position at the Prehistory Club of Kenya as a program officer.
William O. Omoro joined TARA in June 2010 as the Community Projects and Outreach Assistant. He was born in Nyando district of Nyanza province and holds a bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and Community Development from Kenyatta University. William previously worked with the Kenya Wildlife Service as an Assistant Research Scientist in areas of environment and sustainable community development. He is fluent in English, Swahili and Luo.
Eliza Wilson-Powers began a 6 week profession exchange at TARA in July 2010. Eliza has an undergraduate degree from The Art Institute of Chicago and currently works as the Archivist for The Pace Gallery in New York. She came to TARA to assist in the Digital Imaging Center, and explore ways comprehensive image libraries and archives can support community initiatives, believing they are essential to preservation and conservation efforts and can be important tools for empowering local community involvement.
TARA is pleased and proud to announce the publication of an attractive 68 page booklet on community rock art projects with a case study of its highly vibrant project on Mfangano Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya: Managing Community Projects: TARA and the Abasuba Community Peace Museum.
The book is loaded with pictures and with stories from many of the actors and players involved in TARA’s largest community project to date. Co-authored by Gloria K. Borona (TARA, Community Projects Manager) and Gladys Nyasuna Wanga (Former TARA Programme Manager), with a foreword by Alain Godonou (Director of EPA at the time), the book chronicles the genesis of the project, its implementation, its successes and shortcomings. Also highlighted are community project management principles / best practices and four other TARA community projects (Dabous, Niger; Kakapel, Kenya; Lokori , Kenya and; Kondoa, Tanzania). The production of this book was made possible through the support of EPA – Ecole Du Patrimoine African, in Benin with funds from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Date: 1 July 2010
Three AFS – American Field Service volunteers visited TARA on 28th of June, 2010. The volunteers Frances Smit from South Africa, Kweku Darten from Ghana and Signe Nielsen from Denmark have been on an exchange program in Kenya and were interested in learning more about TARA and its work across the continent. AFS aims at creating inter cultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world. They were pleased with the warm welcome and purchased a variety of merchandise items as souvenirs.
Date: 28 June 2010
The Community Peace Museum has received a grant of 12,000 Euros from EPA (Ecole du Patrimoine Africain – School of African Heritage) for an education outreach programme for one year. The good news was relayed during a board meeting at the museum and was received with gratitude. At the meeting were TARA’s Terry Little, Chief Operations Officer and Gloria Borona, Manager Community Projects and Outreach. They were joined on this trip by three tourists Monica Garcia, ambien insomnia treatment Monique Motais de Narbonne and Valerie Magar, first time visitors to Kenya who were impressed by the beauty of Mfangano Island and the richness of the Abasuba heritage. They visited the two rock art sites ending up at Mawanga Rock Art School, a community initiative developed out of proceeds of rock art tourism from Mawanga Rock Art site, where TARA presented the children with stationery and other learning aids.
Date: 7 June 2010
Jean Clottes, a prominent French prehistorian and member of TARA’s Advisory Board, was awarded with the Great Gold Medal with Special Honours for Sciences from “Arts-Sciences-Lettres” in June 2010. This Academic Society has been in existence since 1915 and this is the first time a rock art specialist received the award and the second time that the award goes to a Prehistorian.
The TARA exhibition Window on Africa’s Past which was at the Uganda Museum from February to April 2010, was opened on 13 May 2010 at Kumi District, the home of Nyero Rock Art site. The exhibition was officially opened by the Minister for Industry, Rev. Fr.Hon. Simon Lokudo. Speaking at the opening, the Minister requested that the Commissioner of Antiquities a budget for the fencing of the rock art site which is severely threaten by human encroachment.
Hundreds of visitors and community members had a chance to visit the site and witness the destruction and challenges facing the heritage. The exhibition will be hosted at Kumi for two weeks after which it will move to Kenya. Rose Mwanaja Nkaale, Ag. Commissioner, Museums and Monuments of Uganda and Jackline Nyiracyiza, Conservator of History/Archaeology Monuments were present at the event. TARA was represented by Gloria K. Borona, Manager Community Projects and Outreach who highlighted TARA’s commitment to raise awareness of the rich African Rock Art heritage and community involvement in conservation.
Date: 14 May, 2010