The Game Pass Shelter is situated just a 1,5 hour walk from the Kamberg Rock Art Centre. Game Pass Shelter is commonly referred to as the “Rosetta Stone” of southern African rock art, for it was here that archaeologists first uncovered a vital key to understanding the symbolism of San rock art.
Kamberg Rock Art Centre and Game Pass Shelter
This site is special for so many reasons. It was one of the first sites ever to be seen by Europeans and appeared in the Scientific American in 1915. It was the first South African rock art site to be known in other parts of the world, and revealed the meaning of San rock art- it, in a sense, “cracked the code”.
The trail to Game Pass Shelter is a two-and-a-half, to three hour guided walk, via the spiritually moving Waterfall Shelter. It is nothing short of a world-class experience in Khoisan rock art and living Zulu and San culture. Walks normally leave at 08h00, 11h00 and between 12h30 and 13h00.
The walk is preceded by a spectacular DVD presentation at the state-of-the-art Interpretive Centre that caters for a maximum of ten people at a time. Sessions are run seven days a week and can be arranged by appointment.
The Centre is wheelchair friendly, but unfortunately the trail to Game Pass Shelter is not. There is a special audio-visual show on the trail and the shelter for those who cannot walk up to Game Pass Shelter.
San Rock Art
The uKhahlamba Drakensberg region of KwaZulu-Natal is rich in rock art left behind by the San people. These exquisite paintings tell stories of yesteryear and teach us more about the mythology, ritual, and beliefs of the San.
Paintings were made using mostly black, white, red and orange pigments gathered from the surrounding natural environment.
Long thought to be merely pictorial journals of hunting trips and everyday life, researchers have now uncovered some of the deeper meaning of the art. The most frequently depicted animal is the eland, the largest antelope of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg and vital to the well being of the San, providing meat, fat and skins.
The eland became an important symbol to the San and was viewed as an animal of power, with supernatural potency and great religious significance. Some paintings show mysterious figures with combined antelope and human features that relate to the San spirit realm.
More recent paintings depict friendly interaction between the San and African and European migrant groups, as well as conflict. Today the descendants of these artists live among local African communities.
Although they have changed their hunter-gatherer lifestyle, they still strongly associate with the rock art of their ancestors.
The densely painted uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park, a World Heritage Site, contains some 550 known sites amounting to over 40 000 recorded individual images.
The paintings in KwaZulu-Natal are estimated to be between approximately 120 and 3000 years old.
Some sites may be visited in the company of a custodian and interpretive displays at some of the reserves provide unique multimedia insights into the history and significance of the paintings and painters. They serve as a monument to the ancient people who roamed freely between the mountains and the coast of KwaZulu-Natal for thousands of years.
Pathways to the art sites take visitors on the same routes once taken by the San up to their rock shelters. Visitors are asked to respect this outstanding legacy by observing the well-known wilderness motto of taking only photographs and leaving only footprints. Touching the pictures not only hastens their decay, but contaminates them, affecting dating procedures and chemical analysis; even stirring up the dust around them causes harm.
Touching these paintings would also be regarded by many, who revere them and the shelters for their spiritual significance, as interfering with the inherent power or spirit they contain.