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Chongoni Rock Art

The Chongoni Rock Art is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has the richest concentration of Rock Art in the central Africa region. 127 rock-painting locations have been identified.

Chongoni is of international importance because it has large and well-preserved rock paintings sites belonging to four important and rare African Rock Art traditions. The red schematic paintings of various geometric patterns could be some 3500 years old and are thought to have been made by the hunter-gatherer Ba-Twa pygmies who inhabited the area before the Bantu migrations.

The white paintings are mainly of animals or mythical animal-like figures which represent spirits and are used in nyau dance. These can be quite recent, as a depiction of a car illustrates. A unique aspect of the paintings is that a high proportion are known to have been made by women. The sites remain important to local culture and rituals and dances are still performed there.

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Three of the sites are open to the public – Chentcherere, Namzeze and Mphunzi. The Antiquities Section of the Malawi Dept of Culture is trying to maintain them. It is building an information centre in the grounds of the College of Forestry and Wildlife which will be open in 2012. There will also be a workshop for local women's groups to make and sell crafts.

The Chentcherere and Namzeze Rock Art sites are about 6km and 12km north of the Malawi College of Forestry and Wildlife and are off the main dirt road. They are not marked and visitors will need a local guide to find them. Some businesses in the area provide this service. Ask at the Dedza Pottery or the Kazela Lodge/Ed’s Bar at the College. Reaching the sites also involves an uphill walk on a steep, uneven tack for which appropriate footwear is needed. The Namzeze one is over 500m and may not be suitable for people who would struggle with these conditions.

The Forestry College can be approached from the M1 at the turning to the east signposted for the College, which is north of the Dedza Township turning. Alternatively, exit the M1 at the northern junction for the Dedza Township tarmac road. After 100m turn left onto the dirt road and drive 8km past the Dedza Pottery. This road is sometimes in poor condition because of use by the heavy WICO sawmill lorries. Turn left at the College signpost.

The Mphunzi site is to the west of the M1 off the Lobi dirt road.

Information about the Chongoni Rock Art Site can be found in documents on the UNESCO website. The contact at the Malawi Dept of Antiquities is the Site Manager, Mr Oris Malijani.