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Africa meets Africa – My Room at the Centre of the Universe

'My Room at the Centre of the Universe' is the latest release in the Africa meets Africa series. It is being launched on 4 December at FADA Art Gallery, at the University of Johannesburg's Bunting road campus, in association with Africa meets Africa,

'My Room at the centre of the Universe' is 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:

The film tells 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. 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.

Preview the film 'My Room at the centre of the Universe' here:

'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.

'My Room at the Centre of the Universe' is also the title Elvirdo gives his personal research journal, 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?

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.

All content is © Copyright Helene Smuts Arts Education Consultants CC