Author of the Month

Star Beings In Stone? —A Rock Art Site In Central South Africa (cont.)
By Gary A. David

The late epigrapher Barry Fell had interpreted some of the more abstract symbols at Driekopeiland as Libyan inscriptions written in Ogam script, one translation of which is as follows: “Under constant attack we have quit this place to occupy a safe stronghold.” Brenda Sullivan amplifies Fell’s rendition: “‘People suffering. A time of death and suffering. People were forced to abandon the place, and seek protection elsewhere’—either because they were attacked, or because of violent storms and flooding.”[9]

Although I am not psychic, as I sat in the midday sun at this site, a vague sense of malaise and subliminal tension pervaded the atmosphere. Even my South African friend Rob admitted he would not camp overnight here, due not to the dangerous wildlife but because of the evils spirits that potentially inhabit the place even today. Maybe we were simply experiencing, to quote the South African author Laurens van der Post, “...the ghosts of Africa which, as we all knew, walked not at midnight but noon.”[10]

Some of the most puzzling engravings that we found depicted humanoids with some sort of bizarre paraphernalia. What Rob has dubbed “the Spaceman” is located adjacent to “the flying saucer” and “the rocket.” The protrusion from this figure’s helmet is somewhat similar to the cone-shaped nose on a Hopi kachina, or spirit messenger.

The intimacy that many African tribes have with the celestial realm is presently confirmed by a world-renowned Zulu Sangoma (medicine man) and High Sanusi (“uplifter of the people”) whose name is Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa. Unlike most academics who seem to put up barriers between peoples and compartmentalize them for study, Baba Mutwa continuously shows us the enduring but dynamic connections between continents. For instance, he sees direct parallels between Native American and African tribes.

“There is not a single nation among Native American peoples whom I visited in my journeys to the United States that does not have cultural and linguistic links with Africa. Among the Hopi Indians of the American Southwest, I found a custom where masked people, who are called Kachinas, come at certain times during the year and conduct sacred ceremonies and bless the people. In the African country known as Zambia, there is a group of people who practice what is called Mackishee. People wearing elaborate masks, which refer to certain spirits, visit villages at times and listen to confessions of the villager’s sins. These ‘spirits’ bless the people for the coming period of time and go on their way again.”[11]

LEFT: Anthropoid with staff and striped helmet, Driekopseiland, South Africa.
RIGHT: Hopi Corn Kachina doll, Kriss Collection, Museum of Northern Arizona.
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  1. Barry Fell, “Ogam Inscriptions from North and South Africa,” and Brenda (Sullivan) Wintgen, Ph.D., “Ntethological Analysis of Ogam Script from Driekopseiland Translated and Published by Professor Barry Fell,” both articles from The Epigraphic Society Occasional Publications, Vol. 6, No. 116, 1979. Brenda Sullivan: “In 1978 I met with Professor Barry Fell, founder of the Epigraphic Society, in Boston, USA. In 1998, I heard of the Mashigo Institute for the Interpretation of Symbols, and became so caught up in this new knowledge that I went on to obtain a Masters degree. By combining my years of self-study and research with the methodology of the advanced courses of Ntethology and Mashigology, I was awarded my Ph.D. for my interpretation of the symbolism of 30 South African rock engravings - a first in this field.”[back to text]
  2. Laurens van der Post, The Lost World of the Kalahari (Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1968, 1958), p. 37.[back to text]
  3. Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, Zulu Shaman: Dreams, Prophecies, and Mysteries, edited by Stephen Larsen, original title Song of the Stars (Rochester, Vermont: Destiny Books, 2003, 1996), p. 157.[back to text]

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