Two organisations seal a partnership that is as much about preserving history as it is about capturing images. 

The Wits Rock Art Research Institute (Rari) partnered with Canon Africa on August 18 to improve Rari’s digitisation laboratory (digilab), help relieve it of financial constraints and keep San rock art widely accessible. 

Canon Africa has provided Rari with funding for technological solutions for the digilab, after it had been facing funding restraints over the years, leading to staff being retrenched and its technology becoming outdated. 

“Unfortunately, we had to let the people working in the digital lab go because of lack of funding; people who had been working there for years,” Rari head Dr Sam Challis told Wits Vuvuzela. 

Challis said they began communicating with Canon in the hope of keeping their archived collections of San rock art, located physically in the Wits Origins Centre and digitally on the African Rock Art Digital Archive, active and accessible to the public and researchers.  

This is the first time since 2017 that Rari has received external funding, and Rari is pleased to be working with a company that shares its interest in preserving history.  

“It is our passion to show and inform our continent’s heritage to the world,” said Challis. This is one of the main reasons Rari is excited to partner with Canon, he said. “[They] are as passionate about the conservation and preservation of history as we are.” 

A media statement by Canon said the company philosophy is built on living and working together for the common good of society: “Preservation is a part of this because it is not just important for us today, but for future generations as well.” 

Andrew Skinner, a postgraduate student working at Rari, echoed the sentiment, saying the partnership could power transformation in the institution, giving it the recognition, it deserves. 

Challis said he believes the images are a part of our national heritage because they put an emphasis on native ancestry. “The images that are left are a part of today’s societal ancestry, and everyone in southern Africa has some connection [to them],” he said.

FEATURED IMAGE: A digital copy of a rock painting originally found in the Mount Currie district of KwaZulu-Natal. Photo: Provided