Igeleke Rock Paintings

Located on the western edge of Iringa town, Igeleke rock shelter and paintings are in a good state of preservation, with more than 30 Bantu-style  figures produced mainly in red ochre, dated to Iron Age (3000 years ago). Artifacts including stone tools, pottery and iron working debris were recovered from the site.

Surrounded by granite koppies and candelabra trees, it is a relatively easy climb to the base of the rock structure. Once one reaches the rock shelter, the view towards the Dodoma escarpment is breathtaking.  It is easy to imagine the benefits of such a vantage point for spotting animals and possible threats.


About The Paintings

With more than 30 well preserved figures in which naturalistic human and animal figures predominate, the rock art includes giraffes, eland, wildebeest, and elephants as well as candelabra trees, parallel lines and dots in black and white color also represented. White dots extend up to 4 meters high. The majority of the paintings are in various shades of red and are in a good state of preservation.

There are three layers of pigments identified. The first pigments are red and are overlain by black paintings. The black paintings are superimposed by white paintings. 

This represents three cultural sequences in the same rock shelter.

  • Red paintings represent the oldest occupation, the hunter-gathering community
  • Early farmers are represented by black paintings
  • And the white color stands for late occupants.

Rock art sites in the southern highlands are highly affected by physical weathering, biological and anthropogenic actions.

  • The major physical agents threatening paintings are rock weathering, exfoliation and oxidization.
  • The major biological threats include vegetation growth on rocks as well as bird and hyrax droppings.
  • Threats related to anthropogenic actions include graffiti and smoke that cause soot formation on paintings.

Most importantly, the lack of sensitization in the local community regarding the scientific and economic values of heritage resources such as the rock paintings has led some local people in Iringa region to believe that rock paintings are signs left by German colonialists (1888-1918) to locate places with buried treasures. Therefore, treasure hunters are looking for German possessions in rock shelters with paintings.




The former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan argued that:

“The Rock Art of Africa makes up one of the oldest and most extensive records on earth of human thought. It shows the very emergence of the human imagination. It is a priceless treasure....Africa's rock art is the common heritage of all Africans, and of all people...Perhaps the greatest threat (to this heritage) is neglect. A lack of resources, combined with a lack of official interest, has left too many rock art sites unguarded against vandals and thieves. It is time for Africa's leaders to take a new and more active role. We must save this cultural heritage before it is too late ”  Secretary General Kofi Annan (2005)


How to reach the site

 Igeleke is on the western edge of Iringa town, off of the Dodoma highway.  You can hire a taxi (10,000 go/return) or take a dala dala (public transport) and ask to drop at Igeleke.  You will then walk towards the Igeleke primary school (follow the sign for Valentine conference center). Just past the school is a sign board with contact number for the community group who manages the site (Kiumaki).  There is an entrance fee which ranges from 10,000 TSH for non-residents to 2000 TSH for citizens.