ANCIENT ROCK PAINTINGS IN TESO

There are several sites in Teso with ancient rock paintings. Those on Kapir Hill are the most accessible as they are so close to the tarmacked main road half way between Kumi and Soroti, near Awoja Swamp. The best site is at Nyero, just 10km off the main road at Kumi towards Ngora.

Kapir Hill

A scramble up a rocky footpath brings you to the top of Kapir Hill and rewards you with some spectacular views over the lakes and swamps, distant rocky outcrops and mountains and the cultivated, bushy grasslands of Teso. It is a wonderful place to watch the sun set.

At the top, there is a huge over-hanging boulder which, together with some other boulders, provides a cave-like shelter from sun and rain which has obviously been used by people for thousands of years. In living memory, it was used for hiding in during the years of insurgency and rebel activity in the late 1980s. There are signs of an old fireplace, with smoke deposits on the rock above, although it is not known how far back this dates.

The most significant signs of ancient people using these rocks for shelter are the abstract, red geometric paintings on the largest over-hanging rock. They are believed to have been painted by the same people who painted on rocks elsewhere in Teso, the most extensive of which are at Nyero about 20km south.

Nyero Rocks

Little is known about the origins and meanings of the paintings, but they may have been connected with rituals such as rain-making and/or fertility. Some see similarities with Bushmen art in southern Africa which is also painted on over-hanging rocks. The current view is that they were more likely to have been painted by the Twa, probably about 2000 to 3000 years ago. According to oral legend, when the Iteso arrived in this area about 300-400 years ago, they found hunter-gatherers who are thought to have been the Batwa, a people who are now largely confined to the forests of central Africa.

Visiting the rock paintings not only provides some income for the local community, which will help fund development, but encourages the people to value and care for their unique heritage.