African Rock Art Disappearing

While researching for this blog, I watched my favorite television channel: National Geographic. It occurred to me that they would be a perfect resource to use for Art History. While browsing their website, I came across an article called Africa’s Imperiled Rock Art Documented Before It Disappears, written by David Braun. In his article he follows photographers as they journey about the Savana capturing photos of as much African Rock art as possible; before it disappears. “Many of the images have been defaced with graffiti left by colonial explorers, settlers, bandits, and modern populations,” he states, “[And] Others are being rubbed out by pollutants in rain. Some sites that housed rock art have been dynamited to make way for burgeoning housing development and the construction of roads and dams.” These cave paintings are not only necessary for understanding what these ancient Africans saw in the Paleolithic age, but they also help researchers to understand how evolution may even have begun to occur. A trustee of the Trust for African Rock Art named Torn Hill details just how important documenting the African paintings are by stating, “We know from human evolutionary science that modern Homo sapiens began in Africa. It stands to reason, therefore, that Africa would contain both the oldest and the greatest amount of rock art in the world.”

 What I found more interesting about this article was that the paintings were not just being degraded by human-forces such as graffiti and urbanization, but that a lot of these art pieces had finally begun to succumb to natural forces such as rain and humidity. I found this article very interesting because it detailed a part of Art History, and Art documenting that is usually not covered. It was very intriguing to learn about the vast ways in which ancient art can be destroyed, and how archaeologists truly have to “race” against time and people in order to preserve pieces of our past in any way possible.

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One Response to African Rock Art Disappearing

  1. aashaikh says:

    I was recently reading an article about a woman who fled Somalia during the height of the civil war and returned several years ago to work in the breakaway area of Somaliland. I found her so incredible because she was the only archaeologist in the region and had already uncovered about a dozen sites that could be UNESCO world heritage sites, but as the UN doesn’t recognize Somaliland and Somalia hasn’t signed the 1972 World Heritage Convention, they won’t be designated as such. She’s traveling with armed guards and is returning to a place that must have so many terrible memories for her, but she believes that the art is worth the risk. The area has no museums and the populace defines heritage in a very different nomadic way. Almost nothing is known about pre-colonial Africa to the average African, and pioneers like her are the first step to installing a sense of pride in the locals about the history of the area from which they come, and the potential benefits that they may accrue from it.

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