The Frobenius expedition to Natal and the Cinyati archive


  • J. Wintjes University of the Witwatersrand


I revisit Leo Frobenius’s ninth African research expedition to southern Africa (1928–1930) and consider the contribution he and his team members made to rock art studies in this region. I touch on his controversial interpretations, but focus more particularly on the under-researched documentary aspects of his activities embodied in the Frobenius archive, located in Frankfurt (Germany) and largely untapped within the southern African context. I examine this archive for the information it contains about one particular rock painting site located in the northern KwaZulu-Natal Drakensberg, recorded by the expedition under the name of Cinyati. Now known as eBusingatha, this site has changed substantially since the expedition’s recording, through officially sanctioned removals in 1947 and natural collapse in the late 1990s. Cinyati was a major focus of the Natal leg of the expedition, which was conducted by three female artists over five weeks in early 1929. I compile and interpret this body of documentary materials, which constitutes the earliest detailed recording of the site. My study contextualizes and valorizes the expedition’s work, establishing the copyists as highly accurate, comprehensive and sensitive recorders of unfamiliar imagery, and assists with visualizing the configuration of the site prior to the removals.



How to Cite

Wintjes, J. (2013). The Frobenius expedition to Natal and the Cinyati archive. Southern African Humanities, 25, 167–205. Retrieved from