Since our beginnings, humans everywhere on earth have painted and engraved images on natural rock faces. Often sublimely beautiful, sometimes mysterious and inscrutable, these works of art, spanning the time period from our origins tens of thousands of years ago to the present, provide a global archive of the human impulse to express and communicate beliefs and ideas.
In recent years, under the banner of the Southern African Rock Art Project (SARAP), the GCI has organized workshops focused on management, conservation, interpretation, and tour guiding of rock art sites. These have been held at the World Heritage sites of Mapungubwe and the Cederberg in South Africa. The GCI recently began a partnership with the Institute for Professional Practice in Heritage and the Arts (IPPHA) at the Australian National University, to provide a workshop on the conservation and management of rock art as part of SARAP.
Australia and the subcontinent of southern Africa face many of the same issues in the preservation of rock art. Both have a rich heritage of rock art sites and indigenous communities closely associated with them, and both suffer from lack of public awareness of the significance of these sites.
In July 2012, IPPHA hosted a two-week program for a group from southern African countries structured around site visits starting in Canberra and continuing on to Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory. The visit to Australia was a uniquely productive experience in that it enabled an exchange of expertise and knowledge and fostered the beginnings of what are hoped to be enduring contacts. In 2013 a reciprocal exchange will occur in South Africa for those participating in the Australian workshop, with meetings at selected sites to further strengthen contacts, enhance conservation practice, and study indigenous management practices and sustainable use of sites.