Years ago, in Northern Spain, I visited Altamira, now a World Heritage Site, though it has taken me time to appreciate what it was that I saw.

I have seen disputes on the age of these depictions.  The current theories for Altamira are between 14,000 and 18,000 years.  The caves with prehistoric art in France are estimated as older, even up to 35,000.  This is not, of course, the oldest prehistoric art.

At the time I visited the cave at Altamira, the tourist side of things seemed quite rough and ready.  We were handed torches and began the walk into the depth of the cave.  The distance between the mouth of the cave and the paintings has been the forum of much speculation.  Theories point to the ritual use of these paintings.

We were told to lie on our backs and shine the torches onto the low cave roof above us.  The first thing that struck me was the rich colouring of these depictions.  Then too, use had been made of bulges in the rock to suggest the bulkiness of the animals.  Acute accuracy of observation and yet a certain measure of expressive stylization blend to make these portrayals memorable by any standards.  This artistry has seldom, if ever, been attained again.


More discoveries have been made.  The cave at Blombos in the Southern Cape is still in the process of yielding things that have astounded archeologists.  Geometric engravings have been estimated at 80,000 years and art implements —  ochre powder in sea shells — have been estimated at 100,000 years.

How many “Altamira’s” wait to be discovered?

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

November, 2018



Wikipedia Altamira



other images – sources lost







Will will travel

I am a part of all that I have met

Ek is deel van alles wat ek ontmoet het

Je fais partie de tout ce que j’ai rencontré

Είμαι μέρος όλων αυτών που έχω γνωρίσει

Soy parte de todo lo que he contrado

Ich bin ein Teil von allem, was ich getroffen habe

나는 내가 만난 모든 것의 일부이다.

Sono parte di tullo quello che ho incontrato

Ik ben onderdeel van alles wat ik heb ontmoet

Namibia from space


I am a part of all that I have met; 

Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’ 

Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades 

For ever and forever when I move. 

How dull it is to pause, to make an end, 

To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use! 

From Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1833


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

October, 2017



The earth




Space Panorama NASA 1969






It has been years since I went to Plaza de Toros in Madrid for a bull-fight.  My partner refused to go — “I can’t sit and watch that cruelty”,  she had the three of us know.  But I went, telling myself that it was out of curiosity.  All my life I’d heard of this and, like flamenco music, the bull-fight is Spain.

I watched the bull enter, swinging his great horned head this way and that, as if in wind, searching out the enemy.  Then, the picadors, some on horseback, wound the bull by opening his back for the sword ultimately to enter.  And last of all, the matador, an image of refined defiance.

What I remember was his balletic agility, lifting himself just out of the reach of the points of those searching horns, horns as agile as he is.  He was an unforgettable combination of grace and daring, facing death each moment in the eyes of the bull.  He took two or three thrusts of his sword before the bull, literally, symbolically, sank to its knees.

How do I now, years later, reconcile myself to that cruelty?  It is the message of the brutality, the timeless poetry of it — two forces, the one dark, primeval, and the other lithe and evolved; the one brute, the other, a refined spirit.  It is the clash of nature and culture; a rush of opposites.  The event will keep burgeoning for me.  It took me years to understand why I did not, and cannot, condemn bull-fighting.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

September, 2017


Images by Pablo Picasso


Sagrada Familia – from another world

The first time I prayed in a car, was when the mad Persian (a.k.a. Iranian) sardined the four of us onto the backseat of his plush Mercedes and in full tilt chased through the dense traffic of Barcelona to the cathedral of Sagrada Familia.  On arrival I was still at the Amen, when the mad Persian hounded us up one of ornamental towers of the still-under-construction cathedral.  I didn’t count the steps, but I suspect it must have been over three hundred.  The view of the city was misty and magnificent.

Sagrada Familia, with construction cranes

The building of this cathedral began in 1882, when Antoni Gaudi, the Catalan architect, was thirty.  For various reasons building was slow.  By the time Gaudi died in 1926, it had not been completed.  The story is that building plans had been lost and Gaudi’s concepts were not viable.  This is how I saw it more than forty years later.  Yet the main portals and the towers held an unforgettable fascination.

The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia is like nothing I have seen.  The art critic Rainer Zerbst says, “It is probably impossible to find anything like it in the entire history of art.”

The main portals have been modified in recent years with expressive gothic frames in front of the original entrances.

Sagrada Familia, with gothic frames

And these original entrances – they riveted me.  They look like the entrances of salagtite caves, with brown cement still dripping from the arcs.  The colour texture of the whole façade of the church looks as if it has risen out of the ground.  Yet the towers, striking rounded forms, come across as playful even artificial.

Figures in the cathedral

Basilica de la Sagrada Familia

It is a pity that I did not see more of Gaudi’s architecture in Barcelona and Madrid.  From images I can say that the organic character, strange and dreamlike, is true to the eccentric spirit of Catalonia and has yielded some of the most original art in history.

Antoni Gaudi in 1880

The journey back to the campsite with the mad Persian was more sedate.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

August, 2017



Wikipedia – Sagrada Familia



Sagrada Familia, with construction cranes –

Sagrada Familia, with gothic frames –

Figures – Pinterest

Sagrada Familia, with trees –

Antoni Gaudi – Basilica de la Sagrada Familia







The four of us woke in the campsite of Toledo in Spain.  The previous evening we had enjoyed a tasty paella on a terrace overlooking the dramatically floodlit Toledo, one of the most architecturally-unified places I have seen.


At breakfast I had an inexplicable urge to tell a story that I had heard as a child.  The others listened.

  Once a young woman had the promise of marriage from a young man who was a soldier.  The promise took place in the church below the crucifix.  The young man went off to the wars and returned some years later.  She reminded him of his promise, but he denied having made it.  She dragged him into the church and at the crucifix she appealed to the Christ-figure.  At that moment the right arm of the figure broke from the horizontal beam, forming a diagonal.  The young man married the young woman.

Oh, my fellow-travellers said, and we went off to see Toledo.  It is a city of doors, august portals of carved wood.  We visited El Greco’s house, he who said “Art is everywhere.  Just look for it.”  We ended up with the Cathedral, magnificent as these places are.  At the foyer there were supplies of pamphlets encouraging tourists in different languages to visit other sites.  One of the pamphlets caught my eye because of its photograph – a crucifix with one arm at a diagonal.  The church was Christ de la Vega.  “There is an interesting legend attached to this church,” the pamphlet said and told the story. “Once a young woman had the promise of marriage from a young man who was a soldier.  The promise took place in the church below the crucifix …”

On the way out of Toledo, we stopped there, bidding the custodian of the church, an ample peasant lady, to open for us.  She produced a key a little shorter than her forearm and with a twist, she unbarred the doors.

Christ de la Vega

There it was – the crucifix who had witnessed the young man’s promise and bore witness to it again years later.

It is, of course, a deposition scene, with the figure supporting the right arm having disappeared over centuries.

                    Deposition Scene

Yes, I have searched every possibility as to why that particular story came to me at that moment in that place.  I cannot explain away the “coincidence”.  The mathematical odds are simply overwhelming.  And the meaning of this strange event?  I don’t know.


© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

July, 2017



A leak from another dimension?



Toledo –

Christ de la Vega – postcard

Deposition scene – Yoonik images

See too, Die Marmer Arm on






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