Patricia Vinnicombe: 1932-2003

By Attenbrow, Val; Stern, Nicola et al. | Australian Aboriginal Studies, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview

Patricia Vinnicombe: 1932-2003


Attenbrow, Val, Stern, Nicola, Veth, Peter, Australian Aboriginal Studies


During the last days of March 2003 the tragic news of Dr Patricia Vinnicombe's death circulated throughout the Australian archaeological community. Pat's extensive networks of friends and colleagues both in Australia and overseas were immediately in touch with each other, trying to make sense of what was to many an inexplicable and untimely loss. As details of the circumstances of her death filtered through from her family it became clear that she had been involved in doing what she had passionately pursued for many decades: the study and protection of indigenous culture and rock-art in all its myriad forms. Having just completed a walking inspection of rock-engravings on the spectacular Burrup Peninsula during the last weekend of March, Pat was involved in a meeting of specialists being held at Karratha and concerned with the future management and monitoring of Aboriginal cultural heritage on the peninsula. Pat died from a heart attack during that meeting, with her son Gavin in near-attendance.

Two years before arriving in Australia, Pat published People of the Eland, a magnificent account of the rock-art of the San of the Drakensberg Range, in southern Africa. This elegant volume not only brought an extraordinary and dynamic body of art to the attention of a global audience, but also helped to lay the foundations for a new generation of research into the meaning of prehistoric art.

Earlier studies of the rock-art of southern Africa were stymied, on the one hand, by colonial attitudes towards the San as a people so primitive that they were devoid of religious or spiritual sensibilities, and, on the other hand, by uncritical application of interpretations developed for European rock-art. Exhorted by the doyenne of European rock-art research, the Abbe Breuil, to develop her own strategies for delving into the meaning of the Drakensberg art, Pat was to pioneer an approach which employed myth and metaphor as a key into the cognitive world of the artists.

Pat's interest in this art was fostered in her youth, growing up as she did on a farm in the shadow of the Drakensberg Mountains. Together with her brother, John, Pat spent a lot of time exploring the art preserved on the cliffs and shelters of those mountains. From 1958 until 1961 she took time away from her work as an occupational therapist to make a detailed pictorial record of this art, producing hundreds of meticulous, painted copies, a selection of which were reproduced in People of the Eland.

Although her marriage to Patrick Carter took her away from South Africa for several years, Pat eventually returned to the Drakensberg Mountains with her husband to undertake excavations at selected rockshelters. Subsequently, a Fellowship at Clare Hall, Cambridge University, gave her the opportunity to write a detailed account of her rock-art research, published in 1976 by the University of Natal Press as People of the Eland: Rock Paintings of the Drakensberg Bushmen as a Reflection of Their Life and Thought. In this work Pat combined quantitative analyses with insights drawn from anthropological and historical accounts to identify the visual metaphors that run through this body of art and to make inferences about what it was that the artists were celebrating in their paintings. Thus she showed that the Drakensberg art was an expression of both the lives and spiritual world of the Bushmen who had once inhabited this landscape. In 1977 Cambridge University awarded Pat a Doctorate of Philosophy for this seminal work.

In 2000 Pat picked up the threads of her Drakensberg research, accepting an invitation to join the Rock-art Research Institute at the University of Witwatersrand for three months as a Visiting Research Fellow. This provided an opportunity to catalogue hundreds of her original painted records and to begin the task of transferring them to archival paper, for posterity. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Patricia Vinnicombe: 1932-2003
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.