The Khoi San cave rock art is perhaps the most culturally significant thing you’ll see on a hike in the Drakensberg. Accommodation on this remarkable mountain range is, however, by no means limited to sleeping in caves. In recent years families of all ages looking for a slightly different or more adventurous holiday destination have been visiting the Drakensberg. Accommodation ranges from the luxuries and romantic to the cheap and cheerful. Not to say that romantic isn’t cheerful of course.
One survey counted over 20 000 individual rock paintings at over 500 different locations along the Drakensberg between Royal Natal National Park and Bushmen’s Neck. All of these were either caves or sandstone overhangs, which show that Khoisan of the area used caves for more than just accommodation. Drakensberg mountain range was often home to the nomadic tribes of San people that would follow the migratory paths of the animals that they relied on for food and clothing. Academics have only recently started looking at the deeper significance of these paintings and seeing them as more than just rudimentary symbols of a successful hunt. It is possible that they may have been left behind as a way of telling a story when it was time to follow the herds, when it was time to leave their accommodation. Drakensberg Mountains it should be noted would have been a difficult place to live in winter, especially at the higher altitudes where snow is common in the winter months.
It is thought that the Shaman of the tribes would enter a trance like state before creating these depictions on the cave walls, it would have been the equivalent of any spiritual ceremony that ancient tribes all over the world took part in. They believed they would obtain the spiritual power of whichever animal they killed and of all the animals the Eland it seems would have been the most powerful as it is often depicted in these scenes. These scenes were created out of respect for the animal that was killed and the trance like state would allow the Shaman to get closer to their spiritual beings.
As the Khoisan tribes of KwaZulu-Natal had no real fixed accommodation, Drakensberg Mountains became their kingdom. It would seem they had no real sense of ownership or not as we know it today. Although Khoisan is an amalgamation of two tribes that started off as the Khoi and the San with the Khoi people brining pastoralism and farming to the San, both tribes it is believed by some, would have been used to following the migratory habits of the animals they relied on and moving at the whim of the seasons. Thus having no reliable accommodation, Drakensberg Mountains provided not only their shelter and grazing ground but most importantly for academics today, their canvas on which they left a rich interpretation of their beliefs and culture.