Rock paintings from the Western Cape, Cederberg, South Africa: photo by Jimfbleak, 2007
"... the marks on the bottom of a pewter plate tell the story of all the meals it has been used for.
Sandstone with Bushmen rock paintings, Karoo System, Amathole Mountains, South Africa: photo by Lysippos, 16 November 2008
"In the same way, the form of every piece of land -- the shape of its sand dunes and rocks -- contains in natural script the history of the earth; every rounded pebble that the ocean casts on the shore could tell that story to a soul that is chained to it, as our soul is chained to our brain." -- Said to be found in Lichtenberg, Schriften [Writings], volume 1, p. 223.
Stone Age paintings of the San, found near Murewa, Zimbabwe: photo by Ulamm, 1983
What is certain is that childhood chains us to things in this way; indeed, it may be that in childhood we wander through the world of things like the stations of a journey of whose extent we can form no conception.
(Khoi) San engraving of an Eland on glacial pavement at Nooitgedacht, near Kimberley, Northern Cape, South Africa: photo by Keilmesser, 11 October 2009
Couldn't it be the case that childhood makes a start with the most remote things?
San (the "dancing" Kudu) and Khoekhoen (the abstract figures) rock paintings at Twyfelfontein, Namibia: photo by Hans Hillewaert, 21 June 2007
At first, at the moment of birth, it makes itself similar to the most distant things in the deepest, unconscious stratum of its own existence, so as subsequently to enable the objects of the worlds around to accrete, layer by layer.
Stone Age paintings of the San (1000-to-2000 years old), found near Murewa, Zimbabwe: photo by Ulamm, 1983
Hence, what education and human influence do is only one factor in a field of many other forces -- forces the child responds to with that gift of mimesis which was the natural heritage of mankind in its early stages and which continues to function nowadays only in children.
Bushmen rock painting [drum and warriors?], Zimbabwe: photo by Steve Evans, 1 March 2005
The gift we possess for seeing similarity is nothing but a feeble vestige of the formerly powerful compulsion to be similar and to behave mimetically.
Rock Painting of Giraffe, Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, NamibRand Nature Preserve: photo by Namibnat, 26 September 2008
And the now-vanished ability to become similar reached beyond the narrow world of perception in which we are still able to perceive similarity.
Rock paintings on a private farm outside George, South Africa: photo by Cazo3788, 30 December 2005
Millennia ago, the effect of the stars upon a man's life at the moment of his birth was woven into his life, on the basis of the similarity by which the spirits and forces of life were shaped in accordance with a model that was inscribed in the cosmos.
San / Bushman rock painting of an Eland, Ukalamba Dragensberge, South Africa: photo by Lukas Kaffer, 6 August 2007
It is possible, or even probable, that the formative powers familiar to recent generations are no longer able to extend their influence so far.
San rock art at at Twyfelfontein, Namibia: photo by Hans Hillewaert, 21 June 2007
And am I mistaken when I maintain that I have formed in me the image of chairs, stairwells, cupboards, net curtains, and even a lamp -- objects that surrounded me in my childhood?
Ancient Bushman rock painting, Spitzkoppe, Namibia: photo by Katxijasotzaile, 30 September 2006
We must reckon with the fact that, basically, even events in the sky could be imitated by people in earlier times.
Spitzkoppe, Namibia: photo by Falense, 2 April 2006
Modern man can be touched with a pale shadow of this when he looks through a mask, or when, on southern moonlit nights, he feels mimetic forces alive in himself that he had thought long since dead, while nature, which possesses them all, transforms itself to remember the moon.
Spitzkoppe, Namibia : photo by Thomas Schoch, 25 August 2003
But he is transported into this very force field by his memories of childhood.
Bushmen hunting for porcupine, outside the village of Doupos, east of Tsumkwe, Nyae Nyae Conservancy, North East Namibia: photo by David Barrie, 6 July 2008
The gift we possess for seeing similarity is nothing but a feeble vestige of that powerful compulsion to become similar and to behave mimetically.
The daughters of a small community of bushmen living in Namibia: photo by Nicolas M. Perrault, 18 July 2009
Walter Benjamin: extract from The Lamp, a fragment composed in early 1933 and unpublished in the writer's lifetime. Translated by Rodney Livingstone in Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 2: 1927-1934 (1999)