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Twyfelfontein Rock Engravings

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    Twyfelfontein rock engravings was Namibia´s first UNESCO World Heritage Site inscribed in 2007. Twyfelfontein is situated in a transitional zone between the Namib Desert and the semi-desert area in the Kunene region and is declared as a conservation area. It has a wide variety of rock arts which date back between 2000 and 3000 years. This site comprises roughly 2 500 rock engravings, completely exposed on 212 free standing rock, as well as 13 panels containing a number of rock paintings, including the prehistoric rock carvings, with over 2 000 figures documented to date (Namibia Government portal, 2014). These engravings were believed to be made by local San hunter-gatherer people, and represent an important aspect of San ritual and belief systems (National Heritage Council of Namibia, 2014). 

    The engraved rocks have a rather interesting story depicting the history behind its engravings. It is believed that the painting and engraving traditions expressed on the rocks dipicts complex beliefs about the supernatural world. The rock art was a domain of medicine people, or shamans, and had two functions:  as a means to enter the natural world and to record the shamans experiences in that world. The experiences are divided into four stages, the first stage, the shaman enters into the spirit world, for him to enter into this world, he/she had to be under a spell or at an altered consciousness, this could be done by dancing to rhythmic clapping or chanting or intense concentration.They carried out important tasks while in the natural realm, such as healing the sick, making rain and communicating with powerful spirit forces.  The second stage, while in deep concentration the shaman will get visions and draw it unconciously on the rocks.  The third stage, the perilous journey, the shaman experiences physical sensations as if his legs are growing long and rising from the ground. The transformation and the final stage is where the shaman takes a form of an animal such as the lion, giraffe or elephant, a form of an animal which has the special healing powers or to make rain.This ability to enter the supernatural world and return alive was a rare gift not possessed by everyone, that is why the shaman were highly respected people who could heal the sik and make rain (African World Heritage, 2014)

    This sight is significant because it represents the prehistoric stone age carvings that are associated with the ritual practices of the San people. The site has a great historic value to the country as it is part of our heritage.



    Image 1:  Location of of the rock engravings                                                                                                     Image 2: Rock engravings


    Management Issues

    Twyfelfontein has a defined buffer zone and is protected under section 54 of the National Heritage Act. The National Heritage Council co-operates with the local communities and empowers them through tour guiding jobs and interpreting their national heritage. About 35% of the revenue received through entrance fees is plought back to the community (Travel news Namibia, 2012). (Aas et al.,2005) stressed the importance of collaborating, involving the stakehoders, especially the communities in heritage conservation and Tourism development. The site has a buffer zone of 9194 hectares, and a core area of 57.4 hectares where most of the administrative work takes place. The core area accommodates visitor facilities currently there are lodges within the Twyfelfontein buffer zone that cater to the increasing visitors. (African World Heritage, UNESCO, 2014)The buffer zone is aimed at protecting the visual setting.  On site, grazing is restricted and the establishment of tourism facilities is prohibited. However, UNESO is not happy with the hotel situated in the buffer zone which they say, it compromises the intergrity of the rocks (UNESCO,2014). The pressure of visitors have been greatly reduced through the construction of suitable pathways, steps and viewing platforms even for those tourists who decide to go for a self-guided tour. However, being a harsh, dry environment, these rocks are exposed to different weather conditions which may at some point in time (futuristic) affect the paintings, as some of the paintings are fading away (personal observation). In this case, I am not sure whether UNESCO or the state country can do anything about it because nature is taking its cause.


    Aas, C., Ladkin, A. and Fletcher, J. (2005). Stakeholder collaboration and heritage management.Annals of Tourism Research, 32(1), pp.28-48.

    Anon, (2014). [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014].

    Centre, U. (2007). Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes - UNESCO World Heritage Centre. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014].

    Howard, P. (2014). Twyfelfontein (Namibia) | African World Heritage Sites. [online] Available at: http://www.africanworldheritagesites...elfontein.html [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014]., (2014). National Heritage Council-Cultural Heritage. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014].

    Travel News Namibia, (2012). Twyfelfontein World Heritage Site - Celebration and support for local communities - Travel News Namibia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014].


    Image Sources

    Image 1. Anon, (2014). [image] Available at: http://www.africanworldheritagesites...%20Namibia.jpg [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014].

    Image 2. Anon, (2014). [image] Available at: [Accessed 18 Nov. 2014].


    By: Wilhelmina Asino

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    Comments (3)

    Viewing 3 of 3 comments: view all
    Two different fonts are used in your text, it was a bit difficult to read. How do you see the collaboration among the different stakeholders should be promoted? Is it possible in this case, what needs to be done in order to make this process viable, in order to succeed? Best, Albina
    Posted 22:21, 21 Nov 2014
    This was very interesting article and the site seems really interesting for visit. I especially liked the part about the ritual use of paintings.
    I am not sure about this, but I think you should use more formal or academic style of writing here, and avoid phrases like "I am not sure," or "UNESCO is not happy,". And be aware that you have some small writing mistakes, concerning full stops and the like. Those are my suggestions.
    Best regards,
    Vladimir edited 13:36, 22 Nov 2014
    Posted 13:35, 22 Nov 2014
    Thank you Albina. No excuse for the different fonts. Collaboration can be promoted through involving the stakeholders in planning and decision making processes from the onset. Yes, in this case, it is possible because public-private partnerships can be formed, whereby private stakeholders invest money for the safeguarding of the site, and the community can be involved by turning the site into a conservancy. When the communities understand what they are protecting, they will eventually reap some benefits from the tourism activities.

    Thank you Vladimir, your suggestions they are noted.
    Posted 23:46, 26 Nov 2014
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