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WHITE LADY OF BRANDBERG BUSHMAN PAINTING NAMIBIA (part1) Anthropology and History. The Site, the title, the controversy, the now known facts are..

 

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White Lady of Brandberg Bushmen Painting Namibia Pt 1. Anthropology and History

The Site, the title, the controversy, the now known facts.

 

 

Brandberg Mountain Namibia

Sunrise and Early Morning Mists on The Bandberg

The Mountain: The Brandberg massif looms over the Namib Desert to the west of the small town of  Uis. Almost round in shape it measure some 30kms by 25kms and covers a surface area in excess of 750 sq km. The peak known as the Konigstein at 2574 m is Namibia's highest point.

 

About 130 million years ago volcanic activity pushed through the earth's crust causing an up-doming of the overlaying rocks. The  eventual break through of the magma and resultant collapse resulted in the formation of a caldera. During the following 100 million years over 1000 meters of the mountain and its surroundings eroded away leaving the granite core that can be seen to this day. The Brandberg is classified as being an Inselberg

 

The Rock Paintings: There are over 1000 known of rock shelters on the Brandberg that house in excess of 45,000 individual paintings of animals, human figures or glyphs. If you are in the area it is a must visit.

 

The German Missionary Theophilus Hahn was the first European to make reference to the mountain in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and it was as late as 1894 that the name Brandberg first appeared on a German colonial map. The name aptly describing the lighting effects of the rising and setting sun on the mountain.

 

In 1909 Schutztruppe Lt. Von Jochman led an exploration into the Tsisab Valley (the Damara word for Leopard). In 1911 a  Land Surveyor called Ruenig sketched the mountain and in 1914 Schutztruppe Carstens and Burfiendt were sent to find a suitable site for establishing a Heliograph station. The mountain presented a greater challenge than had originally been planned for, and the two men thirsty and starving resorted to shooting a leopard and drinking its' blood in order to survive their ordeal.

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Erongo Region

2107'S - 1433'E

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The Rock Paintings: There are over 1000 known of rock shelters on the Brandberg that house in excess of 45,000 individual paintings of animals, human figures or glyphs. If you are in the area it is a must visit.

 

The German Missionary Theophilus Hahn was the first European to make reference to the mountain in the latter part of the nineteenth century, and it was as late as 1894 that the name Brandberg first appeared on a German colonial map. The name aptly describing the lighting effects of the rising and setting sun on the mountain.

 

In 1909 Schutztruppe Lt. Von Jochman led an exploration into the Tsisab Valley (the Damara word for Leopard). In 1911 a  Land Surveyor called Ruenig sketched the mountain and in 1914 Schutztruppe Carstens and Burfiendt were sent to find a suitable site for establishing a Heliograph station. The mountain presented a greater challenge than had originally been planned for, and the two men thirsty and starving resorted to shooting a leopard and drinking its' blood in order to survive their ordeal.

 

White Lady OF Brandberg Bushman Paintings- The Discovery

In January 1917 Reinhardt Maack a topographer and Alfred Hoffmann a cartographer were surveying the Brandberg. They climbed to the top of the Konigstein and on their descent took shelter for the night under an overhanging rock. On awakening Maack saw the rock painting and made a sketch of it and also entered a note in his diary stating, "The Egyptian Mediterranean style of all the figures is surprising."  A seemingly innocent comment that would be the spark to kindle speculation, myth and controversy for over half a century.

 
White Lady Of Brandberg Maack's orginal sketch

Copy Of Maacks's Initial Sketch

Reinhardt Maack the 'discoverer' of the White Lady of Brandberg

Reinhardt Maack

White Lady Of Brandberg Maack's 1930 painting

Copy Of Maack's Watercolour Painting

 

Reinhardt Maack later made colored copies of the painting, one of which was first published in a book on the bushman art of South West Africa compiled by H. Obermaier and H. Kuhn titled ' Buschmannkunst Aus SudwestAfrika' (Published in 1930 by H. Schmidt and C. Gunther - Pantheon Verlog Fur Kunstwissenschaft - Leipzig)  and thus the painting was introduced to the outside world.

 

The White Lady Of Brandberg - The Misinterpretation and The Myth:

The French priest and archeologist Abbe Henri Breuil (1877 - 1961) was a professor at the College de France, where he lectured from 1929 - 1947 and for some time held the position of Chairman of Pre-History at the College. While having a reputation of tending to romanticize about certain art works he was, at the time, acknowledged as being one of the foremost authorities on ancient European rock art. An experienced researcher who tried to hard interpret and understand the meanings of such works.

 

Why A White Lady ?

The Abbe was visiting Cape Town in 1929 when one of the watercolor copies of Maack's sketch was brought to his attention. Breuil returned to Europe and reported that his curiosity over the painting was close to haunting him. He studied the drawing from the Maack Cave and hypothesized that the central figure was that of a female. He likened the figure to those of the female athletes depicted on the walls of the ancient palace of King Minos at Knossos in Crete wearing a brown jerkin and white or pink lower body tights. Breuil theorized that the migration of a small group of ancient travelers from the Eastern Mediterranean had eventually arrived in a  far off corner of Southern Africa. His able secretary and assistant Miss Mary Boyle is accredited with suggesting that the figure be called The White Lady Of Brandberg

 

"When are you coming to visit our White Lady Of Brandberg?

In 1940 Breuil lead the first archeological investigation of the Lascaux Caves in Southern France and his work was widely acclaimed. Following the end of the Second World War the Abbe's interest in the painting at the Brandberg was rekindled and he  is alleged to have written a letter to the Prime Minister of South Africa General J.C. Smuts, "I send you a portrait of a charming young girl who has been waiting for me on a rock in the Brandberg for perhaps 3,000 years; do you think it polite to keep her waiting much longer?" In 1946 Smuts visited Paris and lunched with the Abbe and Ms. Boyle. Breuil writes in his 1955 book that Smuts asked him, "When are you coming to visit our White Lady of Brandberg ?"

 

The invitation accepted to visit the White Lady Of Brandberg:

The following year the Abbe accompanied by Ms. Boyle, a Dr. Martin and Dr. Schultz made an expedition to the Brandberg and on 5 August 1947 arrived in the Tsisab Gorge and viewed the 'White Lady' painting. Later in 1948 he wrote a paper that was published in The South African Archeological Bulletin called,  " The White Lady Of Brandberg  - Her Companions And Her Guards." The Abbe's theory caused an amount of international  sensation and interest in the painting at the Brandberg.

 

White Lady Of Brandberg Abbe Henri Breuil's painting

Abbe Breuil's Painting of the White Lady 

White Lady Of Brandberg mural another white shaman

Other White Shaman 

White Lady Of Brandberg Mural Central Section

The White Lady of Brandberg Click to enlarge 

 

The Abbe's Book:

During a further visit in 1952 to South West Africa the Abbe eventually met with the discoverer of the cave Reinhardt Maack. And in 1955 the Abbe's book  - titled - " The White Lady Of Brandberg " was published. It is an excellent work and contains a good selection of photographs of the mural along with a detailed report on the rock art and the interpretation.

 

  White Lady of Brandberg part 2

  The White Lady of Brandberg Bushman Paintings Sites are managed by the National Heritage Council  Entry Fees Payable

 

Acknowledgements and further reading: A1, GV4, H12, R1, R2, R5, P1


Of Interest: The Damara name for the mountain is Daures - 'The Burning Mountain'.  The Herero name for the mountain is Omukuruwaro  - 'The Fire Mountain'

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