BACKGROUND ON THE
GAME PASS SHELTER
National Heritage Site declaration: 29 March 2018
The San rock painting site of Game Pass Shelter in the Kamberg Nature Reserve, within the Southern Maloti-Drakensberg World Heritage Site, is one of the most extensive painted panels in South Africa. A wide variety of painted figures adorn the shelter walls, including many eland and human figures, as well as numerous therianthropic figures which are interpreted to depict the embodied esoteric experiences and of indigenous knowledge systems of indigenous societies. Within the environmental and cultural context in which the Game Pass Shelter is located in KwaZulu Natal (KZN), the embodied spiritual experience is understood and known as “Idlozi” (spirit-medium/therapy) experience, among other interpretations.
The Rock Paintings at Game Pass Shelter offer an opportunity to acknowledge the spiritual depth and social complexity of South African rock art that reinforces the significant links between tangible and intangible heritage that resonates with local communities, in particular, who continue to incorporate sites, such as Game Pass Shelter, into their living heritage, ancestral historical identity and cultural practices. That is, Game Pass Shelter, as one of the seminal sites in the history of rock art research, represents a key turning point (cf. decolonial gaze) in rock art research and interpretation in South Africa. In terms of the National Heritage Resources Act No. 25 of 1999, Section (3)(c) the site yields information that contributed to an understanding of South Africa’s rock art cultural heritage; and had a profound impact on archaeological research theory in South Africa. Game Pass Shelter, additionally, in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act No. 25 of 1999, Section (3)(h) has strong or special association with the life or work of a person, group or organisation of importance in the history of South Africa.
We deem the site to have a strong or special association with the San peoples who are part of the ancestors of existing Sotho, Zulu, Hlubi, Xhosa and Thembu communities, the heritage of the /Xegwi, !Ga !ne, Nqgosini and as such is of importance in the history of South Africa. Furthermore, this site offers an opportunity to bring the work of 19th-century anthropologists, Lloyd and Bleek, with the !Kun and ǀXam peoples of the Northern Cape, to a wider audience, and particularly to the attention of local communities who have not been exposed to the testament left to us by ‖Kabbo and Dia !kwain of the ǀXam people. The Rock Paintings at Game Pass Shelter offer a comparative opportunity to display elements of the legacy of the ǀXam legacy – a well-documented primary source of language, narratives, paintings, and spirituality that can be viewed alongside the original rock art of the Eastern San, which will offer new perspectives and provide a unique experience.