The magrical arts of a raider nation: Central South Africa’s Korana rock art

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The magrical arts of a raider nation: Central South Africa’s Korana rock art

Author: Sven Ouzman
Publication: South African Archaeological Society Goodwin Series
Date: 2005


Until recently, southern African rock art has been thought ‘San’ authored. But recent research reveals multiple rock art traditions. Khoekhoe herders produced finger-painted and rough-pecked geometric and ‘representational’ images. Europeans left quotidian names, dates and place markings. Bantu-speakers have initiation-related rock arts with recent political protest iterations. This diversity requires we use multiple sources of evidence to ascribe authorship, meaning and motivation. By paying attention to site preference, pigment, iconography, archaeology, ethnography and historiography another southern African rock art tradition is here identified. This rock art consists of red, white and orange finger and rough-brush painted humans, animals and aprons. A signature motif is the armed horse rider. There are also serpents, geometrics and paint smears. At three of 31 rock art sites recorded so far this rock art physically and conceptually interacts with San rock art. I suggest that this rock art is an 18th–19th century assemblage authored by ‘Korana’. Korana were !Kora-descended Khoekhoen into which other frontiers people insinuated themselves. Korana rock art speaks of political and militant concerns underpinned by a magical ‘occult economy’ and is an excellent case study of
contingent identity formation.

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