Category Archives: History

Rock Art at Singita Pamushana

May 11, 2015 - Conservation,Conservation,Did You Know?,History,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Singita Pamushana Lodge

The forests and sandstone kopjes surrounding Singita Pamushana Lodge are home to more than 80 known rock art sites with more almost certainly yet to be discovered. These range from single figures to large ‘galleries’ containing multiple paintings, sometimes from different time periods.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Carbon dating from pieces of charcoal found in sediments at two of the sites suggest that the paintings range from 700 to 2,000 years-old and fall into three main traditions. The oldest are those painted by San Bushmen hunter gatherers who used porcupine quills and bird feathers as brushes, and ochre mixed with blood and dyes from tree-bark as paint.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

The more geometric spot paintings found in the reserve were painted by Khoi San herders, while finger-paintings, often white in colour, were made by the Bantu-speaking people using ground egg shells as paint.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Many of the earliest paintings are figurative and illustrate everyday scenes from the lives of the hunter gatherers who made them. These include hunting scenes and animals like elephant, rhino, zebra and many other creatures of the bush including, most significantly, eland which were sacred to the San and represented rain and fertility.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Many rock art experts now believe, however, that the original interpretations of these paintings by the early colonialists were too simplistic. Scenes which looked easy to interpret missed complex underlying meanings, including metaphors for aspects of the San’s strong spiritual traditions that included trance, rain and initiation dances among other rituals. Many scenes on closer inspection show creatures that are half-animal and half-human, for example, and probably depict shamans in a trance state.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

The study of rock art is open to interpretation and the full meanings of these paintings will probably never be known for sure. “The San Bushmen were intensely spiritual people,” says Dr. Bruce Clegg, Resident Ecologist at the Malilangwe Trust. “At the Lisililija Spring site, for example, on one panel there’s a row of people in a trance dance which is connected by a spiritual line to a rainfall event pouring down on a female figure which is a sign of fertility in San belief. It’s one big celebration connecting human people to their spiritual counterparts.”


The San Bushmen are the original hunter-gatherers and one of the earth’s oldest continuous cultures. Guests at Singita Pamushana Lodge can take an educational tour of the best rock art sites in the reserve, including those shown in the accompanying film, and learn about their remarkable way of life.

Rock art at Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe

Richard and Sarah Madden are freelance travel writers and filmmakers currently based at in the Malilangwe Reserve at Singita Pamushana Lodge in Zimbabwe. Their series of short films from the region is entitled “Bush Tales” and explores Singita’s community development, ecotourism and conservation work in Southern Africa. Richard and Sarah met while producing documentaries for the Discovery Channel and are now freelance and, prior to working with Singita, spent two years in Africa writing and filming the multi-media Bush Telegraph column for the Daily Telegraph.

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Ancient Art: Malilangwe’s primitive paintings

November 14, 2012 - Conservation,Did You Know?,History,Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve,Safari,Singita Pamushana Lodge

Singita Pamushana Lodge is located in the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve; 130 000 acres of wilderness in the southern corner of Zimbabwe. It is a spectacularly diverse and beautiful piece of Africa, and is also home to nearly 100 rock art sites that date back more than 2 000 years. The careful protection of these sites is a key part of Singita’s conservation philosophy, and allows this ancient artwork to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. Head Guide at Singita Pamushana, Brad Fouché, shares his knowledge on the subject.

The area around the lodge is known for its lush mopane forests and majestic baobab trees, as well as a range of magical sandstone outcrops where most of the San paintings are located.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 1

In Zimbabwe there are 15 000 known rock art and engraving sites, of which many are unique to the country, with little or no other examples found in the rest of Southern Africa. The three different groups of paintings found at the reserve are from San or Bushman hunter-gatherers, Iron Age farmers and Koi Koi/Khoekhoen people.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 2

In addition to professional research undertaken to locate Stone and Iron Age rock painting sites in the area, field staff and guides at Singita Pamushana have recorded a great many other examples. No less than five recording projects have been conducted on the reserve in the last decade, and a total of 87 sites being recorded, with surely many more as yet undiscovered.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 3

Some of the unique rock art that can be found here includes:

* Five extremely rare bi-cephalic (double-headed) animals, of which only two other examples have been discovered in Southern Africa.
* Fly whisks, which are relatively common in San rock art and were used only during the “curing” or “trance dance”.
* Two examples of formlings, a term coined by ethnologist and archaeologist Leo Frobenius to describe “large forms, shaped like galls or livers, into which human figures are painted”, and unique to the whole of Zimbabwe. Their meaning however remains poorly understood.
* Various animals, including elephant, rhino, hippo, buffalo, giraffe, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, roan antelope, sable, kudu, impala, wild dog, baboon, aardvark, ostrich and unidentified birds of prey.

Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve Rock Art 4

Find out more about the inspiration behind Singita Pamushana Lodge, one of Africa’s best-kept secrets, and read our latest Guides’ Diary from the area, written by field guide Jenny Hishin.

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A Groomed, Bespoke Country House

June 22, 2011 - Accommodation,Experience,History,Lodges and Camps,Sabi Sand

Singita Ebony Lodge – a groomed, bespoke Country House – a romantic mix of European and African heritage.

After a short closure a restored and re-invigorated Singita Ebony Lodge has just reopened.  Singita’s flagship lodge, Ebony Lodge overlooks the Sand River and is inspired by the original Lewis Camp.  Refreshed but true to its original design an authentic, colonial bush experience is represented by bold colours of Africa blended with real antiques, layers and florals that reflect the English heritage of a country home.

Geordi de Sousa Costa, from Cecile and Boyd’s, was involved in the original design of Ebony Lodge and was therefore highly qualified to advise on the way forward when we considered a refresh of the lodge.

Geordi’s interpretation is that Ebony’s style is unique.  She speaks about the beautiful finish that has built up over years of dedicated polishing and care, and the clever combination of African artifacts and European collectibles that would be typical in the bush home of a seasoned, high-end traveler.  Ebony is Singita’s flagship lodge and has a history and heritage that is unmatched.

For more information about Singita Ebony Lodge read more here – and if you are interested in the new rates of the Lewis Suites, find out more.

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Singita History – Part 2

April 06, 2010 - History

In the early 1990′s – James Fawcett Bailes’ grandson (the current owner of Singita) – began to once again focus on the work his grandfather had started.

Using the original 1930′s aerial photographs, with the help of environmentalist Dave Wright; he went about restoring the land to its original condition.

In 1993 the first lodge, Singita Ebony, opened its doors and following its huge success Singita created four more luxury game lodges in South Africa.

In recent years Singita has added four additional luxury lodges and camps, beyond the South African borders, to the exceptional Singita offering. In doing so Singita has done more than just realize James Fawcett Bailes’ legacy.

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Singita History – Part 1

March 31, 2010 - History

The significant history and heritage of Singita can be traced back over 80 years.

In 1925 James Fawcett Bailes purchased a tract of pristine, untouched land in an area in South Africa known as the Lowveld. Throughout his life he dreamt of preserving this land and creating a haven for its exceptional wildlife.

A Leopard in the Singita Sabi Sand

85 years on and James Fawcett Bailes’ dream of preservation and protection continues to be realised on a daily basis. This patch of pristine, untouched Lowveld land is what we now call the Sabi Sand Reserve and it remains, to this day, a sanctuary for wildlife.

To view more wildlife photographs – from the Singita Sabi Sand – click here.

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