May 2015
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Learners to link up with astronaut
Shared Sky, shared wisdom
"Talking science" competition
A meeting of minds
Young scientists take on Australia
Learners unveil project in Beijing
Introduction to crystals
Young Science Communicators' Competition
SAASTA inspires class of 2015
Meet Prof. Nox Makunga
Top young achiever's journey
Wonders of water at Scifest Africa
Learners work with particle physicists
Meet SAEON's new education officer
Light comes out of the darkness
In the news
Upcoming events
It's a fact!

Shared Sky, shared wisdom

  The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, officially opened the exhibition in Cape Town
  Detail of Origin of Death by the First People Artists of the Bethesda Arts Centre
  The girl who made stars by the First People Artists of the Bethesda Arts Centre
  Ilgali Inyayimanha 'Shared Sky' by a collaboration of Yamaji artists
After its inauguration in Perth, Western Australia in September 2014, the Shared Sky exhibition travelled to South Africa and was inaugurated in Africa at the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town on 13 February 2015.

The Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, officially opened the exhibition in the presence of distinguished guests, officials from various embassies and some of the artists who have contributed to Shared Sky.

Shared Sky stems from a vision by the international Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project to bring together under one sky Aboriginal Australian and South African artists in a collaborative exhibition celebrating humanity's ancient cultural wisdom. This vision embodies the spirit of the international science and engineering collaboration that is the SKA project itself, bringing together many nations around two sites in Australia and South Africa to study the same sky.

The exhibition reflects an understanding of the world that has been developed across countless generations observing the movements of the night sky. Minister Pandor says of the exhibition: "While Shared Sky successfully reflects on the ancestral interpretations of the night sky from indigenous people from both South Africa and Australia, it also touches on South Arica's flagship science programmes. South Africa has a rich fossil heritage, allowing for world class research in human origins. At the same time, we host top astronomers exploring our place in the universe."

SKA South Africa has collaborated with John Parkington, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town, and the First People Centre of the Bethesda Arts Centre to capture the impressions of the indigenous San populations of the Karoo.

The Shared Sky concept

Shared Sky connects indigenous artists working in remote communities from either side of the Indian Ocean that have ancient cultural connections to the two sites where the SKA will be located.

Being located on similar latitudes on both continents, the two sites in Australia and South Africa present essentially identical views of the night sky to the peoples that have lived there for tens of thousands of years, and to whom some of the oldest known artwork on earth can be attributed. Shared Sky reflects the SKA's One Sky concept – that no borders exist in the sky and that the night sky is an increasingly scarce natural resource that belongs to, and is shared, by all humanity.

South African indigenous heritage

In South Africa, artists that are descendants of /Xam speaking San people and others of the central Karoo produce collaborative artworks in textiles that explore their own creation myths and celebrate the ancient culture of their ancestors that survived in the harsh environment of the central Karoo desert region for millennia. These large art quilts reflect a visual language that stretches back to a time of great antiquity.

Although the /Xam language became extinct towards the end of the 19th century, the story-telling traditions of these artists' forbears have survived through an extraordinary collection of stories comprising verbatim interviewed accounts of hundreds of traditional /Xam stories translated into English.

Australian aboriginal heritage

For Yamaji people, the appearance of the dark shape of an emu stretched out along the length of the Milky Way has heralded the season for collecting emu eggs for thousands of years.

In Western Australia, the Yamaji and other Aboriginal artists who have created artworks for Shared Sky are descendants of, or connected to, Wajarri people that until the mid-19th century were still living a largely traditional way of life, hunting and gathering on the land that is now the site of the Australian SKA.

Many of the artists have visited the Australian SKA site and have spent time talking with scientists on site, under the stars, sharing their stories about the night sky.


Shared Sky presents an unprecedented opportunity for these peoples, who share so much through their common colonial histories, to reflect upon the countless generations of proud custodianship of their respective homelands and draw strength and inspiration from each other. That these communities developed such rich and distinctive cultures over thousands of generations in absolute isolation – and an entire Indian Ocean apart – yet share so many deep concerns for the preservation of their cultural heritage, is fitting testament to the power of collaboration.

Stories passed on through meticulous oral traditions from one generation to another across the millennia, and the profoundly complex understandings of celestial mechanics common to both cultures, have been brought together in this way through the cultural agency of the SKA project and the willingness of scientists to reach out and appreciate alternative ways of seeing.

Shared Sky is sponsored by the SKA Organisation, SKA South Africa and SKA Australia.