The original human population of Sub-Saharan Africa is known as the San people. Being hunter-gatherers they were also nomads, seeking shelter in caves, when the weather would not allow open camps. The San lived in the landscape of the Maremani Nature Reserve for at least 5000 years, leaving a legacy of beautiful rock paintings. Three kinds of rock art have been identified, i.e. San fine-line art, Khoekhoe geometric and handprinted art and finger paintings of the Bantu speaking tribes. A project on the rock art of the Reserve was undertaken by Mr E. Eastwood, an authority on the rock art sites of the Limpopo valley. From the many rock art sites recorded for the Maremani Nature Reserve, five were selected, information boards erected and the sites made accessible to visitors.
There are at least three sites where giraffe were painted. Although the San of the Kalahari still hunt giraffe with bows and poisoned arrows, they also consider the giraffe as a ritual animal. The San believe that supernatural potency is present in human beings and certain animals, and that when it is activated during the Medicine Dance, it “boils” up the spine of the shaman. When the boiling potency reaches the head, the shaman is catapulted into the spirit world so that he or she can acquire the power to heal, make rain or control animal herds. The Giraffe Medicine Song is still chanted by San women in the Kalahari to assist shamans to enter the spirit world. On Maremani there are also paintings of elephants, kudu and zebra.
The Paintings of Khoekhoen (or Khoikhoin, formerly ‘Hottentots’)
These images include finger dots, handprints and finger painted geometric forms. The Khoekhoen were herders who moved into the Limpopo River Valley about 2000 years ago and introduced fat-tailed sheep into South Africa. On Maremani there are paintings of concentric circles. These images were made on the faces of female initiates, and were used as decorative motifs on their pubic aprons. In Khoekhoe thought the concentric circle represents the moon, a fertility symbol.
All over the landscape of Maremani there are examples of hollows pecked into the rocks. Some of these were used for grinding plant foods and smaller hollows were used for holding marula nuts so that they can be cracked open with a hammer stone. Other, formally arranged hollows were used as a boardgame called mafuvha, and have symbolic links to rain and fertility. The people who made these may have been San, Khoekhoen or Bantu-speakers. Small hollows called cupules are found inside shelters, and are associated with engraved animal spoor. The symbolism of these engravings is not known. The cupules and animal spoor were made by hunter-gatherers ancestral to the San.