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Rock Art

The rock art at Swebeswebe provides a captivating glimpse into the artistic expression and beliefs of three distinct groups spanning thousands of years. The site showcases paintings by the San (Bushmen) ancestors, passing herders and Iron Age (Northern Sotho) farmers. This valuable site stands out among the few in the Waterberg that depict fat-tailed sheep, alongside rare depictions of baboons and a giraffe standing on hind legs.

One significant painting depicts fat-tailed sheep accompanied by a human figure carrying a stick, believed to be the first depiction of its kind in the Waterberg. This art represents the introduction of sheep by herders into the region about 2,000 years ago. The San, who were hunter-gatherers without domesticated animals, painted these sheep as symbols of spiritual power. We do not know whether the painting was made by herders or by Bushmen that saw herders travelling through the Waterberg along river corridors.

Additionally, the rock art includes depictions of a rhinoceros, associated with rainmaking in San culture. The San believed that shamans could capture a rain-animal in the spirit world and lead it across the parched land to produce rain when needed.

The art also features various antelope species, with hartebeest/tsessebe dominating the Waterberg's paintings. This suggests a special connection between the San and these animals, with dancers believing they transformed into part-human, part-hartebeest figures during trance dances.

The shelter also displays the unique "Waterberg Posture" in which red-stylized human figures are portrayed in a profile view with one leg and one arm visible and the penis projecting forward. These figures are associated with the trance dance and are often depicted with hartebeest, possibly symbolizing ritual specialists or shamans.

Furthermore, the site includes herder art characterized by finger dots and geometric patterns, likely connected to initiation practices. Nearby are well-preserved Northern Sotho rock art, created as mnemonic devices for initiation ceremonies.

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