This exhibition, curated by Pippa Skotnes and Petro Keene (Iziko Social History), draws on Iziko’s collections of copies of rock art, with a central theme of translation. The exhibition explores ways in which translations from the landscape have been made and in so doing place images of rock art in the context of other forms of translation. All rock art copies are seen as acts of translation, primarily translating the ‘unboundedness’ of the paintings as they exist in the landscape, into the framed image of the copy.

Listen to the story The eland man, as told by Kapilolo Mahongo in !kun, introduced and translated by Marlene Winberg:

Paintings and engravings are everywhere in the southern African landscape. They are scratched into the surfaces of the dolerite boulders of the central plains; carved into the rock banks of hill-top waterholes; painted onto the shelters of the mountains in the east and west, and buried in the graves of those who once understood their meanings. They are the creative expressions of ideas that were once alive in the conversations around the campfire and in the rites of passage that marked the milestones of human life. Today these paintings and engravings have become sources of great longing, their meanings multifarious, elusive, contingent; the impulses that gave rise to them often hotly debated and argued.

The exhibition showcases a diverse range of translations, including the works of copyists from the mid-19th to early 20th centuries. A collection by Leo Frobenius, who explored southern Africa during 1928 to 1930 with a team of ethnographers and artists, reveals the remarkable large-scale copies his project produced. Included in the exhibition are also copies by, amongst others, George Stow, Helen Tongue, Dorothea Bleek, Joseph Orpen and Charles Schunke.

It also includes the insights of contemporary scholars, historical and contemporary photographs, and translations of San texts and stories.

Curators: Pippa Skotnes, director of the Centre for Curating the Archive, Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town and Petro Keene of Iziko South African Museum.

The exhibition opened on 20 November 2010 and ran until April 2012.


Listen to Ukuthula, an African lullaby song in the midst of the sounds of nature:

Listen to Horizons by Peter Louis van Dijk:

Both pieces performed by the University of Cape Town Choir, conducted by John Woodland.