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Friday, December 09, 2005

Voices Emerge From Ancient Art

allAfrica -- FROM rock outcrops, faces and shelters scattered in deserts, islands, mountains, valleys and lake shores across the African continent, voices emerge from prehistoric art.

The 'voices' from the ancient engravings, paintings and sculptures, dating back more than 2,000 years, were captured in captivating photographs being exhibited at the Uganda National Museum in Kamwokya. The exhibition is organised by Trust for African Rock Art (TARA).

The exhibition, under the theme The Future of Africa's Past, is a passage for the modern day man into the cultures, beliefs and the environment of our ancestors 2,000 to 12, 000 years ago.

From abstract, figurative to non-figurative images, the rock art is drawn in simple stylistic representations similar to a child's artwork.

They lack proportionality and appear to have been drawn on impulse; some looking to have been inspired by what our ancestors knew rather than what they imagined.

Crocodiles, elephants, giraffes and in particular a Kudu Bull faced by a man holding a bow (in Tanzania), depict a hunter's lifestyle. Paintings of cattle with tiny heads and thin horns found in Ethiopia and around Mt. Elgon in western Kenya point to a pastoral lifestyle.

One of the masterpieces of prehistoric art, the life-size engraving of a giraffe in Debous, Niger, points to a flourishing savannah grassland that was once the Sahara desert. Abstract geometric paintings found in Nyero (Eastern Uganda), Tanzania and Kenya, possess a mythical presence.

Were they symbols to express innermost spiritual feeling and conceptions of life? It is hard to tell.

The mysticism surrounding rock art has lasted for generations as the artwork. For thousands of years, it has endured harsh weather conditions, but a lot is believed to have disappeared. Africa has the greatest concentration, diversity and some of the oldest rock art paintings.

It is believed that the paintings were drawn using a pigment for colouration, a binder to bond the pigment and a fluid to make it liquid.

Common pigments were iron oxides like haematite for red, limonite for yellow, lime, kaolin and white clays for white and manganese and charcoal for black paint.

Binders might have included blood, fat, egg white and plant juice and the fluid was most likely water, but could also have been plant sap or animal urine. The paint was applied using feathers, fingers and tree figs.

The exhibition is sh1,000 (adults) and sh500 (children). It will run until January 8, 2006.

Speaking of Ancient...
ComingAnarchy.com chronicles Ethiopia's history...

Ethiopia/Axum/Abyssinia's Geography Through History

Islam and Axum originally had good relations—Muhammed told his followers, “Leave the Ethiopians in peace as long as they do not take the offensive.” But when Arabs invaded North Africa a clash with Ethiopia was inevitable, and the two sides fought several wars in the 8th century. Eventually, Muslims occupied the coast and converted the natives.

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