Our guest post this week is by South African artist Marcus Neustetter, whose work is featured in the African Cosmos exhibition. To see his work, visit: http://www.marcusneustetter.com/
In early 2012, Helene Smuts, director of the Africa meets Africa Project, invited a group of artists to join the production team of the latest in its series of educator resource books and films. The Africa meets Africa (AmA) project is an independent NGO which explores and documents southern African cultural heritage, seeking out solutions to contemporary learning problems in our schools by looking to the sophisticated visual language of traditional arts styles. An interdisciplinary research process has led to remarkably pragmatic learning solutions – such as presenting mathematical concepts in relation to the sophisticated symmetries of woven grass baskets and beaded adornments familiar to rural learners. The project stimulates critical thinking around the fluidity of ethnicity in its flow between urban and rural contexts
My Room at the Centre of the Universe is a 12 minute preview of a 60 minute film being directed by regular AmA film maker Guy Spiller. Together with a richly illustrated resource book, it departs from the act of sensitive and intensive observation common to the fields of astronomy, archaeology and the visual arts. A small Karoo farm outhouse becomes a space of contemplation and creativity for the main character, a 16 year old teenager from Sutherland. One small window in his room acts as a framing device through which he observes and contemplates the landscape, the skies, and ultimately the universe– much like telescopes used by physicists, or the views the Hubble telescope offers humankind.
- Cameroon has announced that it will begin using satellite imagery to monitor and protect the country’s forest reserves. It will be using use images from the SPOT satellite Earth Observation System to create baseline maps in order to track changes to forest cover.
- SpaceX, headed by South African born Elon Musk, has been awarded a $82 million contract with NASA for the launch of the national Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Jason-3 spacecraft, scheduled to launch in December 2014.
Teens at the Smithsonian’s ARTLAB+ produced and recorded a series of interviews with our own Chris Kreamer, curator of the African Cosmos exhibition, South African artist Willem Boshoff, and astrophysicists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Check out the second in this series of interviews below, which highlights the astrophysicists involved in this exhibition:
Last Wednesday we celebrated both the summer solstice and the opening of African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. We hope you’ll stop by to visit–and share with us your thoughts!
Teens at the Smithsonian’s ARTLAB+ produced and recorded a series of interviews with our own Chris Kreamer, curator of the African Cosmos exhibition, South African artist Willem Boshoff, and astrophysicists at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. Check out the first in this series of interviews below:
We are in the midst of installing African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. This has included putting together the massive Rainbow Serpent by artist Romuald Hazoumè, who lives and works in Benin, hanging a monumental painting by Ethiopian-born, New York-based artist Julie Mehretu, and installing the 18-foot high mask carved by a Bwa artist from Burkina Faso. As with every installation, there are the unanticipated snags…paintings hung too low that have to be rehung; objects brought in on loan that require the fabrication of a mount on site—but so far, things are going pretty well. Check out some photos from the installation process!
Our guest post this week is by Rujeko Dumbutshena, a Zimbabwean dancer and artist who teaches courses on neo traditional African movement.
I believe African dance is a reflection of our humanity—and therefore of our cosmic story. I have been teaching dances that, in their context, many years ago, were used for celebrating and mourning the natural cycles of life. Because the uses of traditional African dance seem endless, I have always found ease in applying movement to story.
When starting to work on concepts for a performance for the African Cosmos exhibit with my friends and fellow Zimbabwean artists Mavhu Farai Hargrove and Farai Malianga, it became clear that I was about to draw inspiration from a part of my culture that I knew little about. You would think that my non-tradition upbringing, Christian education system and training in classical ballet, would render my cultural stories irretrievable, but working on the Jenaguru performance for the African cosmology exhibit has forced me to bring those stories back to life and closer to home.
When we first sat down together we managed to achieve a common ground with our individual understanding of our fundamental cultural worldview. God is not in heaven so there is no need to direct our prayers to the sky, our ancestors replace others deities and gods and luckily for us, our creation story has been handed down to us to draw inspiration from despite our distance from home. African dance has kept me connected to the age old ways we have been paying homage to the natural order of our universe and therefore I begin to find ease in finding movement that reflect our cosmic story.
At first, the most familiar associations came to mind: stars as female beauty, the Sun brings the joy of gathering together, while the full moon compels us to dance in courtship. I no longer feel at a total loss—I will start with Mhande, a rain dance which makes me realize that although we may look upward to the sky for rain, the dance itself emphasizes our connection to the earth. When we are compelled to reach up to the sky it is only because our feet were firmly planted on the ground.
Pounding Mhande rhythms continuously, while singing and drumming, if done for long enough, will open a portal that gives us a chance to commune with our ancestors and gives them a chance to carry our prayers to God so that he/she, in turn, may give us rain.
Where there are no gods to worship, no heaven to look up to, transcendence comes from moving your being in song, music and dance to a point where our physical reality becomes a spiritual one reflected in our cosmos and the stories it tells showing us that we are never far from home.
- Yesterday the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, developed by SpaceX—headed by South African Elon Musk—launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral. This mission, if successful, will be the first attempt by a private company to haul cargo into space. On Thursday the Dragon capsule will attempt to dock the International Space Station.
- Foreign Policy has featured an article supporting South Africa’s bid for SKA. The piece, written by John Glassey of African Brains, suggests that regional cooperation will flourish if South Africa is ultimately chosen as the SKA host site. The next meeting for SKA committee members is scheduled to take place on Friday, May 25.
- This Sunday it was announced that South Africa will join the international JIVE (Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe) radio astronomy research institute, with the Hartebeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory and the KAT-7 facility in Karoo providing data. ”We are most excited that this collaboration will aid in promoting South Africa’s commitment to the science of astronomy and forge more international science relations,” said National Research Foundation deputy CEO Dr. Gansen Pillay.
- South Africa’s Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor is expected to announce soon whether the nation will put another satellite into space. South Africa is part of the African Resource Management Constellation, a group of African countries that are putting satellites into space for earth observation; South Africa has not yet contributed a satellite to the constellation.