Ancient Tongues

Posted on 5 July 2023

There’s something to be said about walking the same land that others did hundreds of years ago and seeing the tales that have been created. And then you wonder: what will others think of us many years from now when they walk where we stand now? Rizqah Dollie went exploring.

‘Iʼm always fascinated by how nature continues to thrive, regardless of development and “damage” to the natural environment. It just seems to exist and grow and adapt, unlike humans, regardless of climate change, it just…carries on,ʼ says Rizqah (Ricky) Dollie.
ʻI often feel like I photograph mountains and rocks and ground quite often, and indigenous plants. I think it speaks to…what has always existed, ancient tongues of what was always on the land and what will always be there, regardless of how much damage we do as humans.
ʻI feel like the mountains are representative of us, as humans, in the society in which we live, because their edges are so juxtaposed against all of the other softness, especially in a country like South Africa – if you exist here, among all the issues that you face daily, there is all this natural beauty that you can step out to. It gives you a place. ʼ

This shot was taken at Hippo Bay, just outside Oudtshoorn, in the Western Cape. The harshness of the thorns and the softness of the water resonates with me, this juxtaposition. Apparently, there really is a hippo in this water.

This was shot at My Earth Farm in Keisie Valley. It is 40ha in the mountains, surrounded by crazy wildlife and 57 species of red-listed fynbos. The community knows the medicinal use of every plant. It’s scary to see the effects of the diminishing plant life on the farming community that lives there

Undoubtedly one of the most magnificent passes in the southern hemisphere, Tradouw Pass extends across 16km of expansive mountainous terrain, joining Barrydale and Swellendam. Also known as Women’s Path (in old Khoi language), it was constructed in 1869.

I was shooting a fashion campaign in Pringle Bay at dusk. I prefer to shoot at dusk or dawn– anything else is usually ridiculous, just too hot. For this project, an anthropological piece on fashion, the garments were all made from natural fibres. The softness of the fabric contrasted strongly against the harshness of the mountain.

Despite the sadness of the skulls and the tortoise shells, this was quite a positive morning. I was sitting with my friend, botanist Rupert Koopman. We had gone away to the Cederberg for a breakaway but also to discuss future assignments, in terms of recording the indigenous plant life in the region.

I’m a visual anthropologist who works on research documentaries, specifically in the academic field. A lot of the rock formations and initial artwork speaks about the work we do with indigenous communities, First Nations people, and the sensitivities around rock art. I taught history of art at various institutions and a lot of the work that I spoke about and a lot of the gazes we look at with visual anthropology speak to some of the images we documented in the Cederberg.

This picture of San rock art is quite significant. It’s amazing how we try to find someone to soothe our souls. These people depicted went to see the shaman and they are entranced in this healing process. Secondly, essentially what I do with my photos is tell stories, and it is incredible to think that these pictures were some of the earliest storytelling

A herd of eland on Traveller’s Rest Farm graze just after sunrise. Despite the vast expanse of open landscape, the surrounding Cederberg mountains offer some shelter from the region’s sweltering daytime temperatures. Famous for its Rocklands Bouldering, Traveller’s Rest is isolated in the the semi-desert terrain of the Cederberg, where unique rock formations offer shelter to baboons, dassies, grey rhebuck, klipspringers, duiker and grysbok, and a number of shy native species


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ALSO READ: Africa’s unbroken forest

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