Watching the three actors from PAST (The Palaeontological Scientific Trust) performing the latest season of Walking Tall at the Origins Centre, was a lesson in the origins of the earth, homo sapiens and our humanity. The cast is made up of superb physical theatre performers, and a standing ovation was owing to them at the end of their 45-minute stint. Furthermore, I was aware that at the end of the show – ostensibly for young people and children – the adults had learnt how we should truly be behaving in this world. Watching the youngsters engaging with some excellent action was a delight and an insight. PAST is an exciting project that focuses on the #99.9%Common theme and the #AllFromOne campaign. The team have travelled across the continent, most recently performing in Ethiopia, using the concept of STEM to STEAM using theatre to teach science. It also offers a safe space to engage with concepts that are considered challenging by some. The latest iteration focuses on the origins of racial diversity and sustainability and should be a must-have at every school in the country. I watched the performance a short week after going to the Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng. Both venues opened up visions of ancient histories; the Caves, in particular, are an extraordinary experience of light and dark, night and day, past and present. Maropeng, too, is a gift for anyone attempting to describe the origins of the world to a child. The graphic water trip with its icy walls and waterfall, its volcanic rock and swirling steam is a wonderfully fun and educational experience.
In line with these experiences and opportunities is the arrival of the life-size replica of the world- famous Lascaux cave paintings to the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Newtown mid-May. According to IFAS (French Institute of South Africa) – who is partnering on the project – the palaeolithic paintings found in the 1940s in France are over 17 000 years old and the exhibition is demonstrably one of the ideal means for South African students and adults to grab the opportunity to see the paintings as they appear in France.
It’s a wonderful example of cultural diplomacy and also cultural tourism. South Africans with an interest in the origins of humanity will certainly travel to see the ‘happening’ at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre. It does seem worthwhile then to include a trip to Maropeng and Sterkfontein in the Cradle of Humankind, or even a drive just up the road to the fascinating Origins Centre at the Wits University campus.
The thrill of being able to join the dots of diverse experiences is always good, particularly if you are able to do it with children. The Lascaux paintings will be partnered by a southern African exhibition at the Origins Centre – The Dawn of Art. Both the Lascaux and the exhibition at Origins talk to one of our earliest understandings of man’s need (and ability) to communicate through art, the symbolism of what is pasted to rock wall remains a reminder of where we come from and our need to protect and learn from history.