Google has announced a partnership with the Rock Art Research Institute at Wits University (RARI) and the South African National Gallery (SANG) to bring its pathbreaking Art Project to South Africa.
Anyone around the world who is interested in African artistic heritage can now explore dozens of rock art images from five different community-run tourism sites, including those in Giant’s Castle Nature Reserve and Kamberg Nature Reserve. Virtual visitors can also view over 50 works from the SANG collection by renowned South African artists such as Sophie Peters,Thami Mnyele, Fred Page, Gerard Benghu, Walter Oltmann, Walter Battiss, Gerard Sekoto and Deborah Bell.  The SANG collection also includes photographs of cultural artefacts such as beaded aprons, headrests, and engraved cattle horns, some of which date to the 19th century.

The partnerships are part of a major global expansion of the project, which now has 151 partners in 40 countries.

Through the project, art lovers are able – with a few simple clicks – to discover not just paintings, but also sculptures, street art, and photographs. Creations from a wide variety of cultures and civilisations are represented, including Brazilian street graffiti, Islamic decorative arts and Australian aboriginal art.

A wide range of institutions, large and small, traditional art museums as well as less traditional settings for great art, are represented in the expanded Art Project

Professor Benjamin Smith, director of the Rock Art Research Institute, says: “The Google Art Project will allow people to access some the finest art painted on rocks anywhere in the world. We encourage you to come to make a pilgrimage to these special sites. Be inspired – by visiting these sites you will not only have a life changing journey into the African past, you will be helping to preserve our priceless heritage for future generations.”

“We are delighted to be the first African art museum to be invited to participate in the cutting-edge Google Art Project initiative,” says Riason Naidoo, director of the South African National Gallery. “Making our art accessible over the Internet means that so many more people across South Africa and globally can now enjoy a selection of the artworks in the Iziko South African National Gallery permanent collection. It is a great opportunity to promote our country’s most renowned pieces of art. We envisage that this will lead to a greater interest in South African art and the promotion of South African artists both locally and globally, which means greater accessibility of our collections, more visits to our own website and, ultimately, more feet through the door to see the actual artworks. We are very excited at the prospect.”
Julie Taylor, Google’s head of communications for Sub-Saharan Africa adds: “Through the Art Project we’re aiming to bring local history and culture online and make it accessible. Both the SANG and the Rock Art Institute have important collections which will be of significant global interest to anyone interested in art, art history, anthropology and archaeology.”