A visit to Patricia Vinnicombe’s childhood home
"My main aim has been to demonstrate that the Bushman rock paintings are concerned not so much with the commonplace, material aspects of life, but with the deeper philosophies which govern relationships between man and the world he lives in, between man and man, and between man and the Creator Spirit"
Patricia Vinnicombe, 1976: xix
Patricia Vinnicombe was one of the first researchers to look at the social context of Bushman rock art and raise its study from an amateur pursuit to a serious academic undertaking. As a talented artist in her own right, she also had a creative affinity with this imaginative art form and developed a method of copying the art that we still admire today.
Born in 1932, Vinnicombe grew up on the farm West Ilsley near Underberg. Her love of rock art began as a child viewing the paintings on this farm. While still a schoolgirl (she boarded at Girls High School in Pietermaritzburg) she began to take creative inspiration from the art. This ultimately resulted in the publication in 1976 of People of the Eland, lavishly illustrated with meticulous hand-painted copies. Many of these original works are now in the collections of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum.
Sign at the old entrance gate to the farm.
West Ilsley rock art site 2: Two part-human/part-animal figures, also known as therianthropes (left: eland, and right: baboon). Top: natural photograph, middle: digitally enhancement using DStretch, bottom: Vinnicombe’s hand-painted copy of the same pair of figures.
At the end of March Dr Justine Wintjes and Dr Ghilraen Laue of the Department of Human Science, KwaZulu-Natal Museum had the privilege to visit West Ilsley and see three of the six rock art sites on the farm that inspired Vinnicombe’s lifelong love of rock art.
West Ilsley site 2: Various human figures and faded eland.
In the sitting room of the old farmhouse it is possible to see rock-art-inspired imagery that Vinnicombe painted on the raw sandstone walls.