Cultural Heritage

The San Rock Art/Archaeological Heritage

Zimbabwe is home to 15 000 rock art and engraving sites, of which many are unique to our country with little or no other examples found in the rest of southern Africa. On the Malilangwe Reserve alone, we have discovered 82 individual rock art sites, dating back to between 700 and 2 000 years.

The rock paintings of Malilangwe are largely monochrome red, primarily due to the availability of red pigments in the area.  Paint was made by grinding red oxide into a powder and mixing it with a binding agent such as blood or egg white.  The motifs were then painted onto the rocks using brushes made from animal hair, sticks or feathers.

Experts believe that the images portrayed in much of the San rock art are symbolic rather than being a literal record of events and at Malilangwe, many characteristics that are either rare or have not previously been recorded have been discovered, examples being:

  • Five bi-cephalic (double-headed) animals – These are extremely rare with only two other sites known in southern Africa.
  • Protruding belly buttons – This depiction on the human figures is very prominent in Malilangwe, more so than anywhere else.
  • A figure with an unidentified object on its shoulders, which could be a fly whisk, but as of now we are uncertain.

The Trust continues to place emphasis on recording and understanding these priceless archaeological treasures, which so fittingly provide an account of the ancient cultural heritage of the area.

Kambako Living Museum

At Kambako Living Museum out aim is to “preserve the past to enrich the future”. The museum showcases the bush craft skills that, for centuries, have enabled the local Shangaan people to sustain themselves from their natural environment. A tour of the museum takes visitors on a historic journey through time. Here you will learn more about the Shangaan people’s intimate knowledge of their natural resources and in-depth understanding of animal behavior, which made it possible for them to survive as hunter-gatherers until the recent past. A fascinating presentation describes how they made fire, gathered caloric staples, weaved baskets to carry collected food materials, and trapped and hunted game. The transition during the Iron Age to their current agro-pastoral lifestyle is also discussed. The methods used by the Shangaan are compared with other cultures around the world, and the link between primitive skills and modern technological development is discussed. The adaptability and ingenuity of the human spirit is emphasized throughout the tour, and the pros and cons of the Shangaan way of life are discussed in relation to a modern first-world existence. 

To the Trust, the museum is an invaluable record of traditional culture in the area. It serves not only as an attraction to visitors to the Trust, but also as an important part of the Trust’s conservation education programs.

Malilangwe has 82 known rock art sites, dating back from 700 to 2000 years old.