Facts and Data

Official Unesco Page

Basis Data:
Unesco World heritage since: 2006
Size of heritage: 12,640 ha

Longitude: 34,279°
Latitude: -13,707°


Situated within a cluster of forested granite hills and covering an area of 126.4 km2, high up the plateau of central Malawi, the 127 sites of this area feature the richest concentration of rock art in Central Africa. They reflect the comparatively scarce tradition of farmer rock art, as well as paintings by BaTwa hunter-gatherers who inhabited the area from the late Stone Age. The Chewa agriculturalists, whose ancestors lived there from the late Iron Age, practised rock painting until well into the 20th century. The symbols in the rock art, which are strongly associated with women, still have cultural relevance amongst the Chewa, and the sites are actively associated with ceremonies and rituals.

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Chongoni Rock-Art Area: A Glimpse into Malawi's Ancient Past

The Chongoni Rock-Art Area, located in the Dedza District of Malawi's Central Region, is a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers a fascinating glimpse into the country's ancient past. This unique site is renowned for its exceptional collection of rock art, which provides valuable insights into the cultural and artistic traditions of the indigenous peoples who once inhabited the area.


The rock art found in the Chongoni area dates back thousands of years, with some paintings estimated to be over 2,000 years old. Created by the Batwa, Chewa, and Tumbuka communities, these artworks depict various aspects of their daily lives, spiritual beliefs, and interactions with the natural world.

The Chongoni Rock-Art Area was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006, recognizing its outstanding universal value and the need for its preservation. This designation has helped raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding this unique cultural heritage for future generations.

Current State

Today, the Chongoni Rock-Art Area is carefully managed and protected by the Malawi Department of Antiquities. Efforts have been made to ensure the site's conservation, including the establishment of a visitor center and the implementation of strict regulations to prevent damage to the rock art.

Visitors to the Chongoni Rock-Art Area can explore over 100 sites scattered across the region, each offering a different perspective on the ancient cultures that once thrived here. The rock art includes a wide range of motifs, such as human figures, animals, geometric patterns, and scenes depicting hunting, dancing, and rituals.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Chongoni Rock-Art Area is the diversity of artistic styles and techniques employed by the ancient artists. Some paintings are characterized by bold, vibrant colors, while others feature intricate details and delicate brushwork. This variety reflects the rich cultural tapestry of the communities that inhabited the area throughout history.

While the Chongoni Rock-Art Area is undoubtedly a treasure trove of historical and cultural significance, it faces several challenges. The encroachment of modern settlements, deforestation, and climate change pose threats to the preservation of the rock art. Additionally, the lack of awareness and limited resources for conservation efforts further exacerbate these challenges.

Nevertheless, ongoing initiatives by the Malawian government, local communities, and international organizations aim to address these issues and ensure the long-term protection of the Chongoni Rock-Art Area. These efforts include community engagement, education programs, and sustainable tourism practices that promote the site's conservation while providing economic benefits to the local population.

Visiting the Chongoni Rock-Art Area is not only an opportunity to witness the remarkable artistic achievements of Malawi's ancient civilizations but also a chance to contribute to the preservation of this invaluable heritage. By appreciating and supporting the conservation of this UNESCO World Heritage site, visitors can help ensure that future generations can continue to marvel at the rich cultural legacy of the Chongoni Rock-Art Area.