Dr Brent Sinclair Thompson
Thu, 06/02/2020 - 19:30
The Auditorium, Roedean School, 35 Princess of Wales Terrace, Parktown, Johannesburg
Charge: Non-members: R30, members: free 
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When Europeans first attempted to settle in the Tarka river valley region of the Eastern Cape, they were opposed by various indigenous groups who banded together to launch waves of attacks, characterised by stock theft, against the settlers. Attacks that resulted in many settlers fleeing the area. The raiding groups had several reasons to turn to banditry including loss of hunting, gathering and pastoral land, mistreatment by their colonial employers and attacks by colonial forces on their kin. That some of these groups included people of San descent is evident in the appearance of fine line rock art in the region dating to this time period. However, the images are not of the traditional shaded polychrome variety. Instead they are of an unshaded ‘poster-style’ and also include rough brush work and finger-painting, a likely reflection of the mixed nature of these groups. Indeed, the lack of conventions in depicting subject matter, like horses, is likely testament to the diverse nature of these groups. These paintings show scenes that appear to be concerned with the raiding of livestock. Rather than being the mere depictions of raids, they are likely bound up within a suite of beliefs relating to protection and rain-control that multiethnic bandit groups drew upon to assist them with their clandestine activities.

Brent Sinclair-Thomson is a PhD candidate at the Rock Art Research Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He has a special interest in the rock art of mixed-ethnic bandit groups and how this media relates to resistance to colonialism, as well as how the interaction between different ethnic groups are manifested and reflected in rock art. He is further interested in the way in which colonised populations adopt, and repurpose and re-imagine, the material culture of the colonisers.