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MMore than 400 ancient rock etchings await visitors at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre outside Kimberley, in the Northern Cape. Dating back as far as 1800 years, it is believed the engravings record the visions of Later Stone Age shamans as they went into states of trance.
If you've ever experienced the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley in mid-summer, you may have also been caught in a sudden, drenching Karoo thunderstorm. That's the way rain happens up here in the heartland, and out at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre you'll see the way in which the ancient shamans have been connecting with the rain spirits for millennia.
IIt is believed that some of the 400-odd rock engravings at the site were inspired by shamans accessing the spirit world through altered states of consciousness. In trance, they could heal disease, control wild animals and bring rain. The etchings are thought to be an expression of their visions.
WWildebeest Kuil, a farm lying between Kimberley and Barkly West (a 15 minutes' drive from Kimberley), has a long history of occupation recorded on the ancient rocks scattered about the area – from the older hairline engravings to the more recent pecked-out shapes and relatively modern drawings, it has become clear that the rock art history is rich, moving and meaningful here. Later Stone Age groups (ancestors of the San), the KhoiKhoi and various waves of colonists left their marks here too.
Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre, Northern Cape
AA qualified guide meets you at the interpretation centre after you watch a short introductory film. You then take the 800-metre walkway tour that weaves up and over a hill via a number of information boards. At the entrance is a well-stocked craft shop selling books on rock art and handicrafts made by the locals. A visit here can be a deeply moving experience and an informative one too.
The ‡Khomani San and their lands have been awarded the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ninth such site in South Africa.