new rock art Zimbabwe

New rock art recording, Zimbabwe

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.

new rock art Zimbabwe

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.

new rock art Zimbabwe

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.

4 replies
  1. David Coulson
    David Coulson says:

    Hi Camille McNally,

    At the end of 2016 you left the above message on our/this website, and I am embarrassed to say that I only spotted it recently. Your interest and understanding of the urgency and importance of our mission is very much appreciated and this is to say that we would sincerely appreciate any assistance, funding or advice to help TARA achieve its mission. We have no institutional and no government support. Although we are partners with UNESCO we do not receive a penny of support from them. I have downsized and taken many measures to reduce costs and have taken no salary myself for 3 years, because of my own commitment. Let me know if there is any way you can help? Thanks David Coulson

  2. Camille McNally
    Camille McNally says:

    Historical and beautiful. I hope I can help you with funding in the future. After visiting your website, I often have dreams about them and then I paint from these dreams. These paintings remind me of batik, another form of art that I enjoy out of Africa. Thanks again for your good work.


    They are a lot of paintings which are being destroyed allover the Southern African and are not properly conserved, they need for funding to help in the management of these painting as they have lived for along time for the next generation to learn.

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