Recording and interpreting the paintings of the San

2009-02-18 00:00

GEORGE Stow was one of those 19th-century figures who came to this country — or to other parts of the then British Empire — and was fascinated by what he found. He was an amateur in the best sense of the word. He started out to be a doctor, but ended up as a geologist, and it was while he was investigating the geology of South Africa that he became fascinated by the cave and rock paintings that he found at various locations.

He went to remote shelters and caves, and traced and recorded what he found there. Pippa Skotnes has located 143 of his final, worked-up paintings — 133 of them are in the Iziko Museum in Cape Town — as well as notebooks and sketches, and they are reproduced in this very handsome book, which also contains some of Stow’s own writing.

Stow is not an uncontroversial figure — he has been accused of forgery and of inventing his own paintings. And there is no doubt that his images are interpretations rather than true copies, although it can be argued — and is by Skotnes — that any copy, even one made by a camera, is an interpretation, giving a view of a painting from the standpoint of the person holding the camera. It cannot give the totality of the shelter, the relation to other paintings and to natural formations.

But whatever your attitude to Stow, and to the art of the San people, this is a beautiful book and a record of one man’s interaction with the San. Stow believed that they, as the country’s original inhabitants, had a right to the land. Not a popular view in his time.

Margaret von Klemperer

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.