I never enjoyed history at school. It was all rather dull and boring. Admittedly is was a while back and things could very well have changed, but for me, it was all about dates and rather bland facts – really not the sort of stuff that would appeal to a teenager who preferred being out in the wilds with a camera. But as time has gone by, I have changed, influenced by wonderful story tellers like the late David Rattray of Fugitives Drift Lodge who brought history alive, with characters, and people, and emotions… This is the sort of stuff that appeals. So what’s been happening over the years is that I try to put myself in place of the people of the past, and try to imagine (or work out) what it must have been like – who was involved, what they were like, and what they felt – what their emotions were.
This occurs even when I have no facts at all. We photographed these rock engravings at a remote location, somewhere near Hotazel in the Northern Cape. I know very little about them but they are significant because one or two of them are images of lions and, at the time, we were working on a book called In Search of the African Lion. Much of the photography had been done and we were sitting there, Pat and I, waiting for the light to fade so that we could do some evening shots and I got thinking… (this is not always a good thing!)
Who had made these images, these rock engravings, or to use their technical term, petroglyphs. Sure, it was probably a member of a San or Bushman clan. But who? Was it a him or a her? And why here in the middle of nowhere? Although, of course it probably was not in the middle of nowhere for him – he (or she) must have lived nearby, in a little grass shelter… Did he have a wife? Children? And did he love them very dearly? And why a giraffe, a lion, a warthog, a rhino (looks like it could be a black rhino) and lions? Why them and not springbok which must have been very plentiful. And why are some just strange lines.
And as the light fades, and the barking geckos and jackals start to contribute to the evening sounds, the mind wanders down even more paths, some happy, some melancholy, some even funny.
What an evening we had there on that rocky outcrop. So much to think about. So much to imagine… Time travel! Arn’t we lucky?