Rock art and archaeological sites offer a mirror into our past. We have discovered over 121 individual rock art sites on the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve.
There are three types of rock art here: Iron Age Art, Herder Art and San Rock Art. Experts believe that the images portrayed in much of the San Rock Art are symbolic rather than being a literal record of events. At Malilangwe several characteristics of the rock art are either rare or have not been recorded elsewhere. The art is 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.
We continue to record and research the rock art and archaeological sites that contain evidence of iron production, pottery and glass beads. These sites and artefacts provide an account of the cultural heritage of the area. Sandstone rock art has a lifespan of approximately 6 000 years. Our research regarding cultural heritage has been concerned with documenting the chronology of human occupation within the reserve. We have conducted research on whether there was a period at Malilangwe when the San lived alongside the Iron Age agro-pastoralists. We have also conducted research on the iron production industry and glass beads used as a trading currency.
The aim of the Kambako Living Museum of Bushcraft is to preserve the past to enrich the future. The living museum showcases the bushcraft skills that have enabled the local Shangaan people to sustain themselves in their natural environment for centuries.
A tour of the museum takes visitors on a historic journey through time. Visitors learn more about the Shangaan people’s intimate knowledge of their natural resources and in-depth understanding of animal behaviour, which made it possible for them to survive as hunter-gatherers until the recent past. A fascinating hands-on presentation shows how they made fire, gathered food, weaved baskets, and trapped and hunted animals. 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 considered. The adaptability and ingenuity of the human spirit is emphasised throughout the tour, and the Shangaan way of life is discussed in relation to a modern first-world existence.
The museum is an invaluable record of traditional bushcraft skills. It serves not only as an attraction to visitors to Malilangwe, but also as an important part of the curriculum of Malilangwe’s Conservation Education Programme.