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Nyero Rock painting


Nyero rock paintings are some of the most important rocks in Uganda. Located in Eastern Uganda in Kumi district 8 kms west of Kumi town and approximately 200 kms from Kampala capital city, these rocks hold a very significant cultural heritage. The Nyero rock paintings date back to 1250 and were first documented in 1913 by researchers who described them as geometric in nature.

The paintings on the rock which are found in red pigments spreading across east, central and parts of southern Africa are attributed to the Batwa hunter gatherers of Pygmy origin and are believed to have moved from the rock areas do to the arrival of the new inhabitants like the Luo, Bantu and Nilotic. The Batwa are presently found near the Rwanda/ Uganda border and eastern congo.

The Nyero rock art site has six shelters namely Nyero 1, 2, 3,4,5,6. Nyero 1 is a small rock shelter formed by a low overhanging rock perched above three supporting rocks. On the outer edge of the overhang are six sets of concentric circles in white, together with paintings in the shape of acacia pods. Nyero 2 is the main shelter, it has a 10 m high vertical rock against the back wall and an overhang formed by the breaking away of an enormous boulder estimated to weigh at least 25,000 tons. The overhang protects the paintings from direct rain and rocks in front and to the sides protect the paintings from the sun. Nyero 3 shelter is about 8 minutes’ walk from Nyero 2. It is formed by a large boulder perched on top of supporting rocks with no standing room. Once inside visitors have to crouch low down to reach the far end where another artificial wall makes it less dangerous and allows a wide view of the land below. Nyero 4 is a small shelter on the south-western side of the hills with a few traces of red finger-painted concentric circles. Nyero 5 is located on the western part of the hill near to a school but part of it has been damaged by running water .Nyero 6 is situated high on top of the hill and has a good view of the surrounding countryside.

The Nyero rock art sites are believed to have been sacred places of the small gods. The red and white paintings remain valuable to the people of Teso although mysterious since the painters are not known. In the past, the Itesots of Nyero would sacrifice and pay offerings to the small gods to solve problems of rain, misfortune, blessings and child bearing. Individual and clan prayers were held on a seasonal basis. Oral history has recorded strong attachment to sites though people were stopped from praying in the 1970s by the Government at the time. Traces of smoke from sacrifices are still visible in some of the caves. The association of a sacred prayer place in the zone continues to draw nearby communities to the site.

There are various reasons why Uganda is called the Pearl of Africa and this is definitely one of them.