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Synopsis

Few travellers through the relentless expanse of the Karoo take in much beyond the band of tar stretching arrow-straight ahead of them through the endlessness. Yet this ancient land hides a treasure trove of rock art: the scorched mountains at its southern edge contain countless overhangs and caves lavishly decorated with handprints, animals and strange creatures. In this book, words and images explore the fascinating relationship of San rock art to shamanistic rituals and to stories that are still told in the Klein Karoo to this day, notably those of mythical beings – half human, half fish – who are said to dwell in the solitary springs and watercourses that nourish this semi-arid region. Known in the vernacular as watermeide, these fabled creatures have the power to heal and destroy, to bring life-giving rain or destructive floods. Filled with a deep reverence for the artists and storytellers of old, Renée Rust and Jan van der Poll have documented a unique piece of living heritage. Through them, the rock begins to breathe and the ancient pictograms reach out to us across the ages. Archaeologist Renée Rust has a doctoral degree from the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies at Stellenbosch University. She has been researching and documenting the San paintings found in the mountains and ravines of the Klein Karoo and further afield in the Langeberg and Outeniqua Mountains for more than two decades. She lives on a farm in Grabouw with her husband and children. Jan van der Poll worked as a journalist, advertising copywriter and translator before embarking on a career in photography. After a decade with CapeNature, he joined the Western Cape government’s museum service where he records the rich heritage of local communities. He is a member of the South African Archaeological Society and a keen mountaineer.

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