Alex Robert Willcox

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Alex Willcox was born in 1911 in Devon, England. He was a quantity surveyor by profession and in 1935 immigrated to South Africa.

While horse riding in the Cathkin area, Willcox had become fascinated by the Bushman paintings in the caves, and this was the beginning of a long journey of rock art recording for him.

After 1946, Alex Willcox used his saving from his profession to carry on with his long passion for rock art recording. Mr Willcox and his wife Nancy, travelled through South Africa, burdened with packs loaded with heavy photographic equipment and with food and camping gear.

He was to become the first Bushman art explorer and archaeologist to realize the potential value of colour photography in reproducing, exactly as Bushmen saw them, the record of their emotions in rock art.  His continuous rock art recording culminated in the publications of several rock art books; mainly the Rock Paintings of the Drakensberg in 1956; The rock art of South Africa in 1963; in 1971 Wits university published his reports on the excavation of two shelters in the Drakensberg in which he had the collaboration of Bill Hepner and in 1984 the Drakensberg Bushman and their art.

In all of Alex’s publications he always acknowledges his wife Nancy. In one of the acknowledgements he said:

“ My wife who accompanied me on most of the trips, who has carried her rack suck countless miles of heavy going, who as acted as assistant photographer and typist, and who did not object even to spending  part of her honeymoon in Bushman shelters, I cannot adequately thank, but I daresay she has enjoyed it all no less than I.”

Alex was recognized by his peers, he enjoyed the membership of the Royal Society of South Africa. He was the president of the South African Archaeological Society in 1972-3; he was awarded a certificate of Merit by the South Africa Association for the Advancement of Science and was the founder member of the Southern African Rock Art Research Association. 

Alex Willcox died tragically on Wednesday 1 September 1993 at Gray’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg after being shot through the window of his home in the Drakensberg.

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