UNESCO World Heritage Site #262: Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

UNESCO World Heritage Site #262: Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes
UNESCO World Heritage Site #262: Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes

From the World Heritage inscription:

In the 1940s the Twyfelfontein land was granted on licence to a settler. At that time a few Damara people lived close to the spring in 32 huts. The land was transferred to communal use for Damara farmers in 1964 on the recommendation of the Odendaal Commission. But no farmers came forward to make use of it and it lay abandoned for 20 years. Following Namibian independence in 1990, the land became State Land under the Ministry of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation.

Before the 1940s, there is little evidence for the use of the area by the Damara; it is likely that as nomadic pastoralists, they used the area on a seasonal basis congregating near the spring after rains. However nomadic pastoralism had been almost completely destroyed in the preceding 100 years by the Rinderpest epidemic of 1897 and by ensuing government policies which encouraged people to leave the land.

Interviews with local residents in 2004 failed to collect oral evidence for living cultural association with the rock art, although the rock art sites were seen as powerful places and the rock art the work of ‘ancestors’. The imagery of the art suggests it is part of the belief system of hunter-gathers, the San, who lived in the area until partly displaced by Damara herders about 1,000 years ago and finally displaced by European colonists within the last 150 years. No San now live in the area, although the beliefs of present-day San who live some 800km away in the north-eastern part of Namibia, give insight into the meaning of the rock paintings and engravings at Twyfelfontein.

Twyfelfontein is one of the more popular destinations in Namibia, but it not necessarily easy to get to. It is approximately a 4 hour drive from Swakopmund and 6 hours from Windhoek, most of which is on gravel road. While it is theoretically possible to visit Twyfelfontein on a day trip, it probably is best to plan an evening in the Damaraland region. The easiest way to visit would be to go with a tour company who can take care of transportation and lodging.

The site itself can be visited in 1-2 hours, most of which will be walking in the hot sun. Given the dry nature of the region, the rock engravings have been preserved rather well. It is not a large site but does require some light walking on rocks.

An interesting note, the local name of Twyfelfontein is /Ui-//aes. The / and // characters reflect clicking sounds in the Damara language. Damara is unique in that it has FOUR different clicking sounds, as opposed to the one click you get in languages such as Swahili.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.