The Chongoni Rock Art Site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005.
The Chongoni hills in Dedza district contain spread-out rock art sites that depict the cultural history and traditions of the peoples of the Malawi plateau: the transition from a foraging lifestyle to food production, the subsequent Ngoni invasion of the Chewa people, and the coming of the white man. The paintings also depict symbols significant during initiation ceremonies and ritual practices including gule wamkulu. As a centre of traditional and religious ceremonies, the rock art area encapsulates living cultural traditions. The area’s topography of rock overhangs amongst wooded slopes and grassy clearings provides a protective setting that is integral to the outstanding universal value of the rock art sites.
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 property 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 Early Iron Age, practiced 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.
The rock art and archaeological sites of Chongoni are protected under the Monuments and Relics Act of 1990. The property corresponds with the boundary of the Chongoni Forest Reserve protected under the Forestry Act of 1997.
In the light of the provisions of these two Acts, a management plan was prepared for the cultural resources in order to achieve the objectives of Government policy on cultural heritage preservation.