Modern Malawi Rock Art at Chongoni

Just an hour drive away from Lilongwe, lies a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Chongoni Rock Arts. The Chongoni Rock Art Area is about 80 km south-east of Lilongwe near the town of Dedza. It is an area of forested hills with numerous granite outcrops and kopjes, protected as Forest Reserves. Within the hills, 127 rock shelters have been used for rock art, creating the richest concentration of such art in central Africa. Unusually, it is the work of farming communities, and part of a still-thriving tradition.

Image taken from whc.unesco.org

Image taken from whc.unesco.org

Most of the paintings were made during the past 1,000 years, following the migration of Chewa agriculturalists to the area. They introduced painting with white clay, where the previous inhabitants, Batwa hunter-gatherers, had a tradition of painting in red. Their images are particularly associated with women’s initiation, rain-making and funerary rites, traditions that persist in Chewa society to this day. In recent decades, the symbolism of the rock art has served an important role in a Chewa secret society, Nyau.