I sometimes wonder about art. How we define the word, how we use art, how it defines us.
Our modern society has a love affair with art bordering on the insane. Look at a Sotheby’s auction catalogue, or better still, bid on one of the pieces in an art museum, and you will be astounded to which depths the human condition have evolved, and with it, our art.
But that is just me. I am biased.
My prejudice comes from the study and love of rock art, and specifically, the rock art found on Kaingo in the Waterberg, South Africa. Aboriginal art created by ancient peoples; not only for their own entertainment and joy but out of a deep feeling of belonging to Nature. It creates and enforces ideas and ideals. It tells stories and captures history.
Battles fought, animals hunted, dances and trans illusional states. Belief systems created to ensure survival, ethical behaviour to lift the human race above mere animals.
Rock art is an immovable entity. It may be re-created, photographed, but because of its nature, it is tied to the area, the exact location it was first made. It cannot be stolen-but it can be destroyed.
Whenever I look at rock art, I stand in awe. I stand humbled with respect in the same spot as the artist who first picked a Grewia brush, ground rock, blood and urine into ink and created a lasting legacy.
One of the great panels of rock art that we have on Kaingo relates a few stories in red, ochre and white. Arrows at flight and spears; decorated with white handles, are painted as if the person that wielded that weapon gained the power of their vanquished foe, be it human or mammal.
Hidden within a rocky outcrop named Pride Rock we have a dancing scene where the shaman dances and enters another dimension, leaving his own mortal body for one of an ostrich. Why did he need the need to possess the attributes of an ostrich?
Scholars have been intrigued by the meaning of rock art ever since it was re-discovered and later adopted into a scientific discipline. Many of the stories told in the oral history of the Bushmen and others were captured in the paintings. Kagan, the praying mantis, the rain dancers. The giraffe and eland with a halo. Many paintings are obscure, abstract – their meaning lost in the sands of time.
I would, therefore, like to invite you, our guest and friend, to have a look at a few of these paintings. Mull it over. Dissect it. Feel it.
And then come and have a glass or two of red wine to digest the relative and random experience the rock art brings to the discussion. All comments are welcome; there are no wrong answers.
Which brings me back…
Why did Leonardo paint the Mona Lisa’s smile just that way?