by Ben Dickins
Director of Art and Design, Bradshaw Foundation, United Kingdom
The Rock Art Network, established by the Getty Conservation Institute and the Bradshaw Foundation, comprises individuals and institutions committed to the promotion, protection, and conservation of rock art globally.
Rock art - ancient paintings and engravings on rock surfaces - is a visual record of global human history. It is a shared heritage that links us to powerful ancestral worlds and magnificent landscapes of the past. It tells the story of the birthplaces of art, the dawn of artistic endeavors. It creates connections to significant places and depicts encounters with the surrounding living world. Through its existence nature and culture are connected in the landscape. It resonates with our individual and collective identity while stimulating a vital sense of belonging to a greater past. Rock art illustrates the passage of time over tens of thousands of years of environmental and cultural change. It incarnates the essence of human ingenuity and facilitates contacts today between cultures and aspects of spirituality. Rock art is artistically compelling and full of meaning. This fragile and irreplaceable visual heritage has worldwide significance, contemporary relevance and for many indigenous peoples is still part of their living culture. If we neglect, destroy, or disrespect rock art we devalue our future.
Whilst it was unfortunate to learn that several exciting rock art projects have had to be put on hold due to the outbreak, there remains considerable resolve amongst members that when the current situation has eased these projects can be revisited. While in Namibia rock art network member Richard Kuba of the Frobenius Institute, said to me 'there are many different paths to rock art'. During the virtual discussion my thoughts returned to this very statement. The diverse ways in which members are committed to bringing the importance of rock art to the wider public was apparent while listening to the work being carried out by each member. It is inspiring that even in the face of a global pandemic, a determination remains that our shared human history is to be protected, a determination I am sure is shared by the readers of this article. There are indeed many paths to rock art.
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