by J.D. Lewis-Williams
• Paperback: 158 pages
• Language: English
• ISBN-10: 0821420453
• ISBN-13: 978-0821420454
• ISBN: 978-956-353-131-2
• Publisher: Ohio Short Stories of Africa,
• Ohio University Press;
• Reprint edition (30 May 2013)
San rock paintings, scattered over the range of southern Africa, are considered by many to be the very earliest examples of representational art. There are as many as 15,000 known rock art sites, created over the course of thousands of years up until the nineteenth century. There are possibly just as many still awaiting discovery.
Taking as his starting point the magnificent Linton panel in the Iziko-South African Museum in Cape Town, J.D. Lewis-Williams examines the artistic and cultural significance of rock art and how this art sheds light on how San image-makers conceived their world. It also details the European encounter with rock art as well as the contentious European interaction with the artists' descendants, the contemporary San people.
Bradshaw Foundation - Editor’s Review
Perhaps only the eloquent and succinct prose of J.D. Lewis-Williams could present, examine and explain the ethnology and artistry of the San culture in such a quintessential manner. Using the Linton panel as 'ground zero', his research into the complex San ethnography - 'where continuities can be indisputably identified' - leads us into the heart of the San thought-world, and thus into San rock art itself.
The author warns of the importance of finding a 'balance between the images themselves and the records of San beliefs and life that are available to us'. But having found this balance, Lewis-Williams emphasizes that the ethnology itself 'is not just a key to the mystery of the paintings: it is a bunch of keys', as the Linton panel, and other San rock art sites, suggest.
From explanations of the 'terpsichorean exercises' and the all-important 'trance-dance' to how the San person, shaman or not, can use a painting to go through the 'veil' to the spirit world beyond, the author reveals a world of ethnographic and artistic potency. However, Lewis-Williams then borrows Wordsworth's observation on poetry, suggesting that 'San rock art should probably be seen as powerful emotion recollected in tranquility'.
With these words in mind, and with this book in your pack, the experience of a field trip in southern Africa in pursuit of the San rock paintings will be greatly enhanced!
South Africa Rock Art Archive
The Bradshaw Foundation Book Review
|J.D. Lewis-Williams is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the Rock Art Research Institute at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. He has written more than 135 articles in a wide variety of academic journals as well as authored or coauthored more than sixteen books. His recent books include the award-winning The Mind in the Cave; Inside the Neolithic Mind, co-authored with David Pearce; and Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion.