As one of the last remaining wilderness areas in Africa, it attracts hard-core travellers and explorers. It appeals to those who have already travelled the main tarmac arteries through the country and the myriad gravel tracks that branch off them like fibrous roots. Kaokoland, as this remote and inhospitable region (now part of the Kunene Region) is known historically, has always been the Wild West of Namibia. And for those self-sufficient and experienced 4×4 travellers who venture further afield, it’s a desert Eden of mysteries and marvels.
The story of the Lone Men of Namibia is a mystery wrapped up in an enigma.
These stone men – or rather, sculptures – are scattered all over the country, and known as The Lone Men Of Kaokoland. Each figure has an aluminium disc attached to it, with a number and a message as to where it is going. Although a sculpture numbered 37 has been seen (and I won’t divulge its whereabouts), only 14 Lone Men have been found by us so far.
They have been spotted in Puros in the South, Van Zyl’s Pass in the East, Otjinungua in the North and even in the Skeleton Coast National Park in the West. And for many travellers it has become a treasure hunt to find these Lone Men of Namibia; in fact, you know about it, it has become one of the highlights of things to do in Kaokoland.
Each life-size sculpture is made from rock prevailing in the area, and depicts a different personality. In the dry remote landscape of Kakoaland, with its unforgiving climate and temperatures, you will see them (that’s if you can find them). Some are standing, some are sitting, some are on their knees with their hands in the air and there’s one holding on for dear life from an overhang.
But unlike most artists who display their name on their creations, the Lone Men of Namibia has no name connected to it. The sculptures each have a number on it and a message saying where the figure is heading.
And it all begs the question: who is the artist?
No one knows.
The artist-with-no-name has managed to secretively construct, create and place these stone figures all over Namibia’s long forgotten landscape of silence, and it has become an open-air gallery that draws the spectator into the environment and emotions of each sculpture.
Of course, it also begs a few other questions. Why do these sculptures look so lonely, so haggard? How many are there? Are there more sculptures to be discovered? And is the artist still creating more?
Again no one knows.
And maybe that is the beauty of it all, the unknown wrapped up in the mystery.