Saturday, November 29, 2014

My room at the centre of the universe....Africa meets Africa Educator's Resource Launch; Thursday 3 December 2014.

‘My Room at the Centre of the Universe’ is the latest release in an innovative series of educator’s resource books and films produced by the Africa meets Africa Project AMA.
Marcus Neustetter (Artist), Big Bang. 2012.
Elvirdo with a sparkler-star. Image - Marcus Neustetter, shooting star1-3, 2012.
FADA Art Gallery, at the University of Johannesburg’s Bunting road campus, in association with Africa meets Africa, invites you to the launch on 4 December 2014 at 18h30 for 19h00 of:

My Room at the centre of the Universe….an evocative resource book and film on DVD for all those interested in seeking out answers about our place in the universe; and just how we know what we know:

Join us for an outdoor screening of the story of a bright sixteen year old who asks the big questions, as he stares at the brilliant stars in the quiet Karoo night sky through the lens of his own bedroom window at his Ouma’s modest Karoo farm house. 

Sutherland, Karoo town, home to SALT.
On the plateau nearby, just outside the small town of Sutherland, astrophysicists look at the same stars though the complex eye of SALT (the Southern African Large Telescope). ‘We are all made of stars, you know’, Elvirdo’s  grandma would tell him. ‘The stars are us…’  

‘Stars are the only elemental factories we know of in the universe. And therefore we can say that every atom we are made of was made inside a burning star‘, Elvirdo is told by Cosmologist Dr Carolina Ödman Govender, when he quotes Ouma’s words to her. Carolina is one of several researchers he comes across when he goes for walks in the veld near the South African Astronomical Observatory. Whether these interesting people are astrophysicists, archaeologists or the occasional visual artist, Elvirdo notices that they all have one thing in common: they approach the Karoo earth and its sky with intent and sensitive observation. He asks them his burning questions … and their answers lead him to more.

Elvirdo Booysen talking to archaeologist Sven Ouzman in a rock shelter
beneath the SA Astronomical Observatory plateau.
SKA Dish Sutherland.
My Room at the Centre of the Universe is also the title Elvirdo gives his personal research journal (the book we are launching on 4 December - image left) now that he has grown up and moved away. He is a teacher now and started this journal when he was travelling back to Sutherland, once, to do some professional research. 
Since his boyhood years here he has travelled a great deal and read widely on cutting edge science and contemporary art, on traditional African cosmologies, on archaeology, geology and poetry from this arid area. His journal, richly illustrated with photographs, newspaper clippings and his drawings, is all about his own observation and knowledge making over many years. He has found many answers and yet more questions. 
Mature reflection has led him to integrating strands of evidence from a range of disciplines. Yet most often his thinking leads him back to the questions he posed as a teenager, under these brilliant stars. Maybe one could teach more effectively by integrating subjects like Science, History, Visual Arts and language?

Willem Boshoff (artist) Clast Mar, series of six granite sculptures titled, Children of the stars.
Text sandblasted in six languages, including Ronga Randim, Estonian, Chinese,
Malay, English and Arabic.
He remembers the conversation he had here with contemporary artist Willem Boshoff, whom he came across in the veld near SAAO carefully photographing the smallest details of the most ordinary things. They talked about really looking. Artists Marcus Neustetter and Bronwyn Lace helped him make his own artworks, He knew them well from the many artworks they had made here in Sutherland, drawing his community into a new way of thinking about their place. 

Elvirdo’s room now became a thinking-space for creative scientific enquiry; almost like the inner space of his own mind:  an idea he would  hear the artist William Kentridge talk about, many years later. At Carnarvon Dr Nadeem Oozeer, an Operations and Commissioning scientist at the exciting international Square Kilometre Array radio astronomy project told him: ‘The SKA aims to probe the cosmos to the edge of the observable universe’.  
Elvirdo’s questions are all about origins, also his own, through the ancient KhoeSan ancestry of this landscape. They, he discovers, were genetically unique, their genome including the oldest distinct lineage of modern humans!

Ouma knew many of the old people’s stories. About the sun cutting away at the moon, and how it would come back to life again and again. About the stars being the hearts of healers who had died. He heard about the /Xam San (or Bushmen) who lived around here for centuries as hunter-gatherers before the Cape Colony’s Trekboers came. He has heard since that some of the Karretjiemense you see beside the highway today still carry the DNA of the /Xam and some of our oldest human ancestors.

There is no limit, it seems, to how far you can see from home, if you really look.

My Room at the Centre of the Universe (ISBN: 978-0-620-61420-7)
was developed by a team of specialists in astrophysics, archaeology, geology, paleontology, art history, visual arts, education and film making. The team includes: Helene Smuts, Bronwyn Lace, Marcus Neustetter, Guy Spiller, Enrico Olivier, Carolina Ödman Govender, Kevin Govender, Chonat Getz, Nadeem Oozeer, David Morris, John Parkington, Marcelle Olivier, Bruce Rubidge, Christine Mullen Kreamer, David Riep, Jackie Scheiber, Willem Boshoff, Fanie Olivier and Karel Nel. Film directed by Guy Spiller and book lay-out and design by Anina Bartlett. With acknowledgement of the Sutherland Reflections Project by Lace, Neustetter and the community of Sutherland.
Published by The Africa meets Africa Project in June 2014.

About Africa meets Africa:

This is the fifth educator’s resource produced by the Africa meets Africa project, an independent Non Profit Company committed to seeking out pragmatic learning solutions for the South African classroom, by looking to what is known and familiar in local southern African knowledge systems. Most often these are preserved and expressed through the skilled hands of rural artists, who make exquisite objects (most often for everyday use) according to inherited styles. AmA continually documents southern African cultural heritage.

The unique arts skills based Africa meets Africa learning methodology integrates the arts, history, mathematics and science.  The Theorem of Pythagoras, for example, is found illustrated in an Ndebele wall painting design (image on the left) and learners do geometry when they make beadwork according to inherited Zulu styles (image below, left). 

Those learners for whom English is a third or fourth language are supported in the classroom by an accessible visual language of learning. My Room at the centre of the Universe brings new avenues of learning to the project by integrating science, contemporary art, archaeology and poetry. For sample pages and film clips see the ‘Publications’ link at www.africameetsafrica.co.za. Each resource book and film in the series is introduced to teachers along with CAPS curriculum-linked classroom lesson materials, during workshop programmes presented in partnership with local universities, provincial or district education departments.

For additional information on Africa meets Africa please contact:
Helene Smuts, Director of the Africa meets Africa Project.

Website: www.africameetsafrica.co.za

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