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Monday, May 16, 2011

Lecture at Wits, 19 May

The Impact of the horse on the hunter-gatherers of southern Africa: rock art evidence from the Maloti-Drakensberg

Dr Sam Challis
Together with the Branch Annual General Meeting (agenda enclosed)

Date:      Thursday 19 May      AGM starts at 19:30
Venue:   The auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown
Charge:  Members free     Non-members R30

Horses were first brought into the Drakensberg by people of mixed descent - especially San and Nguni - who were escaping the eastern Cape frontier, but many of whom had ancestral ties to southern KwaZulu-Natal. They had gone to the eastern Cape during the Mfecane and had become subjects of Hinsta. No sooner had they arrived, however, than they became embroiled with the frontier wars of the Xhosa and colonists. Some of these Natal Nguni acquired horses and guns and opted to join groups of 'skelmbasters' who comprised of many San, Khoe and coloured people. One large band - the AmaTola - removed themselves from the frontier and established themselves in the southern Drakensberg from where they raided colonists and black farmers. They used horses. One vital clue as to the mixed nature of the AmaTola lies in their rock art. They painted themselves, not colonists, on horseback with hats and guns. They also painted themselves undergoing transformation in their trance dances, not into eland or rhebok, but into baboons. Baboons, it was agreed by members from all cultural backgrounds, were the manifestation of protective powers. Such powers were vital for survival in frontier conditions and vital to enable one to raid one's neighbours and escape unharmed.

Sam Challis is a rock art specialist at the Rock Art Research Institute. He lectures for the Department of Archaeology, University of the Witwatersrand. He has a doctorate from Oxford University, and has also undertaken expeditions to find and publish Saharan rock art.

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