Rock art in eastern Kenya, 2018

During the last few years TARA has recorded three important  rock art sites in Kitui County, including one site which is located just inside Tsavo East National Park at a place called Ithumba, the regional Park Headquarters. At two out of three of these sites the art takes the form of geometric shapes and designs which represented powerful spiritual symbols for the people that made them. We call this Batwa art, a geometric form of rock art featuring concentric circles, spirals and other quasi geometric shapes. This art was made by forest/hunter-gatherer peoples (Batwa) similar to the forest foragers of eastern Congo, Gabon and other parts of central Africa.
 

Geometric art in Ithumba, Kenya

 
Batwa art dates from a time, several thousand years ago, when these particular areas were still forested and part of the original Central African Rainforest. With the exception of the Maasai and Samburu paintings, most of the rock art found in Kenya is in fact Batwa art, an indication of how much of the country used to be part of the Central African Rain Forest. This includes paintings and engravings found in the deserts of northern Kenya where instead of trees we now see only rocks and sand.  
 
 
The third site, located about an hour south of Kitui town, features a different type of art which is more abstract than geometric. Here we see star-shaped images, almost resembling a modern firework display, and zigzags as well as animal and human footprints. We believe that these images were also the work of hunter gatherers.