Rock Art at Bamboo Mountain – Part 2
In April Drs Ghilraen Laue and Justine Wintjes of the Department of Human Sciences, KZN Museum, and Dr Vibeke Viestad of the University of Oslo, Norway, visited seven rock art sites on Bamboo Mountain in the Underberg area. Our purpose was to photograph in full the site of the 1910 removal (see Part 1 ) as well as to look at changes in the condition of the paintings across all of the sites.
Justine and Vibeke looking out over the landscape from Bamboo Mountain.
In 1961, Patricia Vinnicombe, renowned rock art copyist and scholar, visited the sites on Bamboo Mountain. Many of Vinnicombe’s photographs and copies are housed in the KwaZulu-Natal Museum. Armed with digital copies of her photographs and a physical copy of her 1976 book People of the Eland, we set off to visit the sites and note any changes in the paintings.
Some of the panels include images of horses which means they were in all likelihood made after 1835. The Bamboo Mountain sites were first recorded by Trooper Whyte in 1910, and at the time of Vinnicombe’s recording, at least some of the imagery would have been between 60 and 125 years old – so possibly almost two centuries old now.
The red paint appears relatively stable, and the most startling changes involve black. For a long time we searched for the cattle pictured in the photograph below. Our difficulty in locating the images was not due to poor observation, but due to us looking for the wrong colour. In the intervening years the images have changed from black to white!
Photograph taken by Vinnicombe c1961 (Photo: http://www.sarada.co.za/#/library/BMM2/images/RARI-PJV-RSA-BMM2-6)
Photograph taken by G. Laue in April 2023 of the same cattle.
The same phenomenon is visible across several sites. Below is a colour rendering made by Vinnicombe in 1961 compared with a photograph of the same panel today. The white figures have almost entirely disappeared and the black figures are now entirely white. Further research is required to establish the reasons for this dramatic change in colour.
Colour rendering by Vinnicombe made July 1961 at Bamboo Mountain site 4 (KZN Museum Collection)
Photograph of the same panel by G. Laue taken in April 2023.