Drawing Rock Art - Ancient Africa Projects
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Drawing Rock Art

San art

Khoisan rock art was a way for artists in southern Africa to show their dreams and ideas about how the world worked, or should work. And it was a way to remember things that had happened. The artists drew these pictures for their ancestors, or for their gods.

First you can look at some of their paintings. What do they mean? Why would someone make a painting like that? Why are those things important to them?

And, how did the Khoisan artists make their picture show these things? What did they make big? What did they make little? What is in front, and what is behind? What colors did they use? What kinds of lines? Thick? Thin? Straight or wavy?

Now try making paintings like that yourself. You can paint on a big rock, like they did, if you have one. Or you can just paint on paper. Maybe you'll want to put your paintings up on a wall when they are done, so they can show other people what you wanted to say.

But before you begin, think about what you want to show. Is it a memory? A dream or a goal you have? The way you want your world to be? Are you drawing it for your grandmother? For your god? What is the purpose of your painting?

And also think, how can you use the methods of the Khoisan artists to make your painting show that? What should be big? What should be little? What should be in front? No fair using writing! You have to convey the information in your picture.

When you're done, see if your friends, family, or classmates can tell what your message was.

More about San rock art

Bibliography and further reading about San rock painting:

Or read this Khoisan article in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

More about African Art
More about ancient Africa
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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