Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre
Managed by the Northern Cape Rock Art Trust, and funded through Kimberley’s McGregor Museum, the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre is located on a farm owned by the !Xun and Khwe peoples – descendants of the artists who created these historical treasures. Recognizing the historical and cultural significance of the engravings, and their relation to the surroundings in which they are found, authorities declared the Wildebeest Kuil rock art site to be a Provincial Heritage Site in September 2008, with members of the public being encouraged to visit.
The !Xun and Khwe Communal Property Association (CPA) represents the interests of the local communities and is chiefly responsible for managing the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre. Visitors have the opportunity to view a 25-minute film, as well as to view displays in the visitors’ centre, highlighting important features of the site. Visitors can either accompany a guide from the local community who is well versed in the history and symbolism of the site, or they can make use of a portable audio player to take a self-guided tour. Either way, there are ten clearly marked points where visitors will stop and view the various rock art displays in the settings in which they were discovered. In the past, examples of rock art where removed from the site and transported to museums as far away as London, but through communicating with local inhabitants, it has been discovered that the placement of the various rocks was as significant as the etchings on them. This led to the in-the-field tour concept used today. Experts believe that the images of the rock art are related to spirituals rituals of healing and may be the result of visions experienced during a trance-like state. They were memorialized on stone for others to draw inspiration from.
South Africa has around 15,000 rock art sites on record, with the likelihood of thousands more unrecorded sites existing. The art, which is either engraved or painted, is believed have been made by people of the Later Stone Age, ancestors of the San. It is not clear exactly how old the Wildebeest Kruil engravings are, but experts estimate that they are between 1,000 to 2,000 years old. Examples of rock art at Kuruman’s Wonderwerk Cave are believed to be more than 2,000 years old, with rock paintings in Namibia being dated as 27,000 years old, showing that rock art has long been the tradition of the people of Africa. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre offers a glimpse into that fascinating tradition.