Advertisement Dahabshiil Telesom
Published On: Sun, Jun 26th, 2016

Somaliland:Rocky future for Somalia’s ancient cave art

Baaburqado
Share This
Tags

Centuries have passed since Neolithic artists swirled red and white colour on the cliffs of northern Somalia, painting antelopes, cattle, giraffes and hunters carrying bows and arrows.

 

Today, the paintings at Laas Geel in the self-declared state of Somaliland retain their fresh brilliance, providing vivid depictions of a pastoralist history dating back some 5,000 years or more.

 

“These paintings are unique. This style cannot be found anywhere in Africa,” said Abdisalam Shabelleh, the site manager from Somaliland’s Ministry of Tourism.

article-doc-cf1ra-2IF7Xn8RdX9b22b814ffc5fe4d48-876_634x442Primitive rock paintings adorn the caves in the rocky hills of this arid wilderness in northern Somalia, Laas Geel, home to Africa’s earliest known and most pristine rock art ©Tony Karumba (AFP)

Then he points to a corner, where the paint fades and peels off the rocks. “If nothing is done now, in 20 years it could all have disappeared,” he added.

The site is in dire need of protection. “We don’t have the knowledge, the experience or the financial resources. We need support,” Shabelleh said.

The paintings, some 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Hargeisa, capital of Somaliland, are considered among the oldest and best preserved rock art sites in Africa but are protected only by a few guards who ask visitors not to touch the paintings.

– Diplomatic donor legal limbo –

Applications for assistance by Somaliland’s government have gone unheeded. A former British protectorate, Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia when war erupted following the overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, but it is not recognised by the international community.

The “lack of recognition” of the country blocks the cave’s protection, said Xavier Gutherz, the former head of the French archaeology team that discovered the site in 2002.

Amazed by the remarkable condition of the paintings as well as their previously unknown style, the archaeologist asked for the cave’s listing as a UNESCO world heritage site.

But that request was refused because Somaliland is not recognised as a separate nation. “Only state parties to the World Heritage Convention can nominate sites for World Heritage status,” said a UNESCO spokeswoman.

Requests for funding from donor countries face the same legal and diplomatic headache.

Centuries of isolation and local beliefs that the site was haunted and the art the work of evil spirits may have contributed to Laas Geel’s protection.

But since their discovery, the cave paintings have become one of the main attractions for visitors to Somaliland.

– ‘Part of our blood’ –

Around a thousand visitors each year endure long stretches of rugged terrain and travel with armed escorts to reach Laas Geel, and numbers are growing.

“The concerns of Somaliland are legitimate,” said Gutherz, who has identified key areas to tackle to help protect the site.

“We have to secure the site, arrange access paths, strengthen the rocks that could collapse, divert rainwater runoff and improve the training of guards,” he said.

With a major development planned for Somaliland’s main port at Berbera, the number of visitors is expected to increase.

Ahmed Ibrahim Awale, who heads local environmental group Candlelight, said that dust is adding to the damage at the caves.

“The increased human activity in the area, trampling on the bare gravelly soil, does not allow the natural regeneration of plants,” Awale said. “The resulting dust particles may contribute to the fading of the paintings.”

Archaeologists say that Laas Geel may only be one of many treasures awaiting discovery in the vast rocky plains stretching towards the tip of the Horn of Africa.

Musa Abdi Jama, one of the guardians of the site, sees in the ancient site of Laas Geel the hope of a new nation to be, flying the flag for the cultural identity and uniqueness of Somaliland.

“Here, it was once known as the home of djinn (spirits) by the local nomadic people, who used to slaughter domestic animals for sacrifice in order to live there in peace,” Jama said.

“Now it is part of our blood. Tomorrow, God willing, it will be the first place in Somaliland to be internationally recognised.”

article-doc-cf1ra-4jy2aR5bGf10dfb51f785d4ab1b9-662_634x421A Somali archaeologist shows a primitive rock painting, one of a galaxy of colourful animal and human sketches to adorn the caves in the rocky hills of this arid wilderness near Hargeisa, home to Africa’s earliest known and most pristine rock art ©Mohamed Abdiwahab (AFP)

 

article-doc-cf1ra-2IF7Xn8RdX9b22b814ffc5fe543f-638_634x421A soldier guards the entrance to the caves in the rocky hills of northern Somalia near Hargeisa that contain primitive rock paintings, home to Africa’s earliest known and most pristine rock art ©Mohamed Abdiwahab (AFP)

Source:AFP

Displaying 5 Comments
Have Your Say
  1. Maxamud Yassin says:

    This is part of our heritage. Ask not what others can do for us. Instead we should ask ourselves what we can do to preserve this unique relic.

    The story of Somaliland is the success story of our people taking up intiative in the face of little recognition to rise above the ashes of despair and destruction. It is NOT how many times you fall but how mant times you WAKE up, brush off the dust and continue the long path of recovery.

    My idea is simple. We form local self-help groups to fund raise for the essentials first, like perimeter fencing, road signs, more security signs etc. I am ready to send in my contribution and will volunteer to lobby my friends both within and in the diaspora to help out. I can also open a local account via Zaad. Together we can then request CSR entities like Dahabshiil, the Ministry of Tourism, local governments to join us.

    The Chinese have a proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. I have highlighted the first steps above. Together we can do the rest by Allah’s Grace I/Allah.

    Other historical beauties include the “Twin Towers” of Naaso Hablod just within Hargeisa. They are important landmarks too and good for mountaineering. I hope to raise our local flag when I visit it soon I/Allah.

    Stand up if you are proud of your country and are willing to do something especially in this Holy month of ramadhan (last ten days are priceless!!). Contact me for any ideas, thoughts, insights and comments.

    • ISMAIL HUSSEIN DUALE says:

      SC, MOHAMUD YASIN, RAMADAN KARIM. MOHAMED YOU HAVE INITIATED THE FIRST WAY TO PROTECT THIS SOMALILAND’S ANCIENT ROCK PAINTING -OUR HERITAGE. WELL YOUR PLAN IS PERFECT. BUT LET US NOT TRUST THIS KIND OF VALUABLE HERITAGE ON DONATIONS COLLECTED FROM THE LOCAL. I PERSONNALY BELIEVE FOR MANY REASONS THE PROJECT WILL COLLAPSE IF WE DO SO. I WOULD HAVE TAKEN A DIFFERENT WAY OF PROTECTING THIS VALUABLE PAINTING. I BELIEVE WE CAN SET UP A LEGITIMATE INTERNATIONAL CHARITY WHICH IS SPECIFIC FOR THE PRESERVATION AND PROTECTION OF THE ROCK CAVE PAINTINGS. ALTHOUGH OUR COUNTRY IS NOT RECOGNIZED MY COMMON SENSE IS TELLING ME, THE ACADEMIC WORLD WILL ONE WAY OR ANOTHER SUPPORT US IF WE INVOLVE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE. THE MIGHT GIVE US GUIDANCE OR TELL SIMILAR CASES LIKE THIS BEFORE WHICH WE FIND HELPFUL. THEY MAY ALSO TELL US DIFFERENT METHODS Or DIFFERENT WAYS OF FUND RAISING FOR CHARITY. WE HAVE TO ALSO DO QUICK FACT FINDING MISSION.OF ANY BODY OR ACADEMY OR EVEN ARCHAEOLOGY GROUP WHO KNOWS ABOUT THE ANCIENT ROCK PAINTINGS IN LAAS GEEL PARTICULARLY. I LIVE IN LONDON I WILL TRY TO GO THROUGH BRITISH LIBRARY AND BRITISH MUSEUM. IF SMELL OR FIND THE LEAST INFORMATION. I WILL BRING THAT TO LIVE. THEN WILL TRY TO CHECH IF BRITISH EMPIRE KNEW ANYTHING ABOUT THESE PAINTS IF THE ANSWER IS YES THEN WAS THERE ANY PROTECTION PLANS THAT HAS BEEN DESIGNATED AND SHELVED SOMEWHERE. BUT WHILE WE ARE SEARCHING ANY OLD INFORMATION. I AM ADVISING TO SET UP THE CHARITY NOW. CONTACT ME ON THAT EMAIL. I KNOW MONEY ? WILL COME FOR THESE OLD GODS OR SPRITS OR FEELINGS, … … …OF SOMALILAND. ISMAIL DUALE SUUFI

      • Maxamud Yassin says:

        Ramadhan Karim Bro Ismail. Nice to hear from you. Good to know there arw true patriots out there who really care. I appreciate your contribution. Very insightful comments. I wish I could see your email in the post above. Unfortunately, I can’t. Can you send me your contacts in a secure medium?

  2. ISMAIL HUSSEIN DUALE says:

    BROTHER KUMEE, EMAIL KAAGA IISOO DIR. SAYNAKII MISSION KUWADA JIRAY. ISMAIL Hussein DUALE suufi

    • Maxamud Yassin says:

      Wllo, good to hear from you. I will get back to you shortly. Please be patient. I’m doing some preliminary research. Already found out some interesting things which I hope to share with you and others interested in preserving our precious heritage for posterity. Subra bro.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>