African Rock Art of the Central Zone

Works of Art


Of the three zones, the art of Central Africa is the least studied and least well understood. This zone stretches from the Zambezi River to below the Sahara Desert. The art differs significantly from that to the south and to the north in that images of animals and human beings do not predominate. Instead, the art is principally comprised of finger-painted, monochromatic geometric images. Because of the finger-painted geometric images, some scholars are investigating the link between the central zone and the Khoi art of the southern zone.

There is one anomaly in the central zone—the art of Kondoa District in central Tanzania. Although very faded with age, the art in this region is not finger-painted but, like the fine-line southern African images, is also brush-painted. In subject matter and style, it is more closely related to southern African San painting—and, in particular, that of Zimbabwe—than to any of the images in the central zone. It is believed that this enigmatic body of art is closely related to the Hadza and Sandawe people, who until recently were still involved in hunting and gathering.

Geoffrey Blundell
Origins Centre, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

October 2001


Blundell, Geoffrey. “African Rock Art of the Central Zone.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2001)

Further Reading

Blundell, Geoffrey, ed. Origins: The Story of the Emergence of Humans and Humanity in Africa. Cape Town: Double Storey, 2006.

Coulson, David, and Alec Campbell African Rock Art: Paintings and Engravings on Stone. New York: Abrams, 2001.

Le Quellec, Jean-Loïc Rock Art in Africa: Mythology and Legend. Paris: Flammarion, 2004.

Smith, Benjamin Zambia's Ancient Rock Art: The Paintings of Kasama. Livingstone, Zambia: National Heritage Conservation Commission, 1997.

Additional Essays by Geoffrey Blundell