Google has partnered with the Rock Art Research Institute at Wits (RARI) to showcase some of South Africa’s rock art heritage to the world.

The partnership is part of Google’s Art Project, which features art from famous galleries and museums from over 40 countries. The art featured also includes the South African National Gallery (SANG) in Cape Town.

RARI director Professor Benjamin Smith said it was important for South Africa to play a leading role in this international initiative.

“We explained to them and convinced them that this online art gallery would not be complete without the inclusion of South Africa, the place where art began.”

Azizo Da Fonseca, director of the Ringing Rocks Digitizing Laboratory and the African Rock Art, said Southern African rock art provides an insight into the San’s rituals and beliefs. He said  the San made most of Southern African rock art.

Smith said South Africa had the oldest piece of art, dating back 17 000 years, and the longest continuing art tradition in the world. “South Africa truly has some of the finest rock art in the world and, by highlighting these sites online, we’re encouraging people to go and actually visit the real thing.”

Da Fonseca said rock art proves the existence of the descendants of Sub-Saharan Africa’s first inhabitants. “Its relevance is further emphasized in its inclusion in the South African coat of arms.”

The art featured is taken from sites that are run by communities and open to the public.

View it at


A woman's back is painted with rock art of snakes and horses at the removal site in Mount Currie, KwaZulu-Natal. CREDIT: Reproduced with permission. From the archive of the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.


Published in Vuvuzela 11th edition, 20th April 2012

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