Art in crisis : contact period rock art in the South-Eastern mountains of Southern Africa

Abstract :

Interpretation of paintings depicting interaction between San, black farmers and, ultimately, white colonists has been governed by a set of ethnocentric preconceptions about southern African history and San rock art. The only way to circumvent such ethnocentrism is via theory. Consequently, southern and Kalahari San ethnography is used in a historical materialist model to analyse the contact period and its rock art. This model indicates that the key to contact art lies in three categories of the San shamans’ symbolic labour: rain-making, control of animals and healing. The effects of the contact period on each category of symbolic labour are analysed in conjunction with the relevant contact paintings. This analysis shows that the rain-makers utilised cattle-payments for their services to create a new shamanistic relation of production wherein access to certain resources and their subsequent distribution were controlled by the shamans. Similarly, the game shamans appropriated responsibility for supplying San camps with stolen cattle and horses and, more indirectly, European trade goods. The fears and anxieties engendered by the contact period bolstered the new relation of production by showing the increasing reliance of San camps on the healers’ symbolic labour. Contact art played a vital role in the development of this new relation of production by providing ritual demonstration of the need for such activities. The paintings were thus explicit responses to the new opportunities and pressures of the contact period.



Author Campbell C
Date Accessioned 2016-09-22T11:23:32Z
Date Available 2016-09-22T11:23:32Z
Date Created 1985
Identifier URL 1988
Language English
Subject Archaeology
Subject 2 Archaeology
Alternative Title
Degree Type Masters degree
Degree Description  MSc