Despite its significant position astride the most important rock art regions of Africa, i.e. southern Africa and the Sahara, the study of rock art in Tanzania is relatively new. It was M.D. Leakey’s treatise, Africa's Vanishing Art: The Rock Paintings of Tanzania (1983), that first put the rock paintings of Tanzania on the map. M.D. Leakey's book concentrates on the Kondoa paintings, but the rock art from the rest of central Tanzania is equally interesting, though little known. The choice to concentrate on the rock paintings of Singida and the Lake Eyasi Basin was therefore influenced to a large extent by this lack of comparable knowledge about the paintings in the present study area. An equally strong justification was and still is the need to document as much of this unique patrimony as possible before it is completely lost through the various natural and human deteriorative agents currently threatening its continued existence.
Fidelis Masao with Peter and Annabel Sykes and the team
Overlooking the Singida Region of Tanzania, Africa
Our research was focused on recording and studying as many sites as possible and initiating analytical study where possible. The objectives of the fieldwork were modest and straightforward:
To survey as much of the area and record as many sites as possible.
To describe the sites and their contents as fully as possible.
To attempt a study of the meaning of the subject matter depicted by recourse to ethnographic enquiry.
To comment on the state of preservation of the sites in order to bring about public awareness and that of the Government and other interested bodies.
With these objectives in mind, five field projects were carried out over the course of 10 years. All in all, 140 sites were recorded in the Singida region and 35 in the Lake Eyasi Basin during the five seasons of fieldwork. Much more still needs to be done to record and preserve both the existing sites and those still undiscovered lying deep in silent bush covered country. Unfortunately, there are very serious problems of conservation and management that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
It is hoped that the photographic record resulting from this work will enthuse all the stakeholders in this heritage to conceive plans for conserving and opening up the sites to the world. Needless to say, this work has only touched the surface of what is there and that is clamouring for more research, attention and above all preservation.