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Epson's Large Format Printers Help Preserve Africa's Prehistoric Rock Paintings

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Large format printers donated by Epson are playing a key role in a world heritage project in Tanzania concerned with preserving hundreds of unique rock paintings. Printed reproductions of the paintings are helping to raise awareness locally and internationally, create jobs and foster a sense of ownership and pride among the local community.

First documented by anthropologist Mary Leakey in her 1983 book "Africa's Vanishing Art," the paintings are found in their hundreds around the Kondoa province of central Tanzania, part of the Kondoa UNESCO World Heritage Site. The paintings are some of the world's earliest examples of rock art, and are estimated to date back as far as 29,000 years. They feature humanoids, animal-insect hybrid creatures, semi-realistic animals and geometric designs. Unfortunately, the paintings are deteriorating through the effects of natural weathering, and from acts of vandalism that range from casual graffiti to uncontrolled dynamiting in search of fabled treasure.

The Rock Art Conservation Centre (RACC) in Arusha came about in 2009 through the efforts of Finnish paper-maker Seppo Hallavainio, who has lived in Tanzania for more than a decade. The central idea was to establish a sustainable and self-supporting large-format printing facility for the reproduction of cave and rock paintings. This would generate revenue through sales of prints to tourists and other visitors to RACC in order to fund the protection and further study of the art.

In spring 2011, Epson delivered and installed two printers: an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and an Epson Stylus Pro 3800, which print at up to 44 and 17-inch widths respectively, enabling prints to be made for sale in a variety of sizes. "Epson's products are engineered to reduce impact on the environment at all stages of the product lifecycle. But as well as helping to protect our planet's future, these printers are preserving its past," said Michael Hunt, regional sales development manager for Africa, Epson Europe. "At Epson, we believe in giving back to the communities that support us," commented Shaun Robinson, account manager at Epson's South Africa office, "The rock art preservation initiative has given us the opportunity to preserve our planet's heritage while establishing potential future tourist attractions and revenue-earners for the local population.

The sustainability aspect of the program revolves around the use of hand-made papers manufactured from readily-available local vegetation, such as mulberry, cotton and fig. Photographer Gary Wornell has put his years of expertise in coating and printing on a wide variety of media using Epson printers to use by ensuring the papers and printer work together reliably. Gary visited Tanzania to run a series of photography and print workshops in February 2012 for local schoolchildren, paper-makers associated with the center, and both professional and amateur artists and photographers. "With the support of Epson and its versatile large format printers, we have made it possible to print reproductions of these remarkable images on locally-made paper - an innovative and exceptional use of technology in a developing region," Gary said.

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