By MICHELLE BANDA
“We are the stars above the African light – we look to the stars to see what possibilities are out there,” said Sivuyile Manxoyi. The South African Astronomical Observatory’s education and communication officer was speaking at the magical opening of Scifest Africa 2020 on 8 October – the beginning of six months of virtual education and inspiration about science under the theme, ‘Take root…nurture!’
Scifest Africa 2020, due to take place in March, was postponed because of Covid-19. Because of continuing uncertainty about Covid-19 risks, and the disruption of the school year, the organisers decided instead to hold a virtual Scifest. Instead of just two weeks, however, Scifest Africa 2020 has planned a six-month feast of virtual inspiration from October 2020 through March 2021.
The introductory event featured renowned South African author, storyteller and playwright Gcina Mhlophe. She used songs, poems and stories to illustrate how astronomy is at the heart of African culture, and how it contributed to the birth of scientific thought – a culture of thinking and questioning. Together with representatives from the Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the South African Astronomical Observatory, she brought home the value of astronomy in our communities.
Stars and starlight have been a source of inspiration, imagination, and innovation over centuries. Indigenous people used stars to navigate and generate calendars, as well as to inspire and share wisdom with younger generations.
Themba Matomela, a presenter at Iziko Planetarium, explained the blending of the best of the old and the new like this: “Bring astronomy to people, so that they can dream in a more enlightened way – with old wisdom and new science.”
The partnership’s perspective on the relationship between art and science tapped into the broad theme of Scifest 2020, ‘Take root… nurture!’ Plant health is an important component of the programme: how protecting plant health can help alleviate poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development. Nurturing talent and aspirations underpins the programme.
The South African Astronomical Observatory(SAAO) manages the single biggest optical telescope in the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT). While Scifest celebrates 24 years, the Observatory in Cape Town marks 200 years.
Scifest Africa2020, officially hosted the first of many still to come in the next six months live programmes on Thursday the 8th of October.
Still to come in October 2020 under the theme, Astronomy and Space Science are:
THURSDAY 22 OCTOBER
- Mastering Astronomy Workshop 11-12am
- Astrotourism -The Impact of Astronomy in Sutherland 2pm-3pm
- Unlock Science – Creative science show 4pm-5pm
- Virtual VLA Tour 6pm-7pm
FRIDAY 23 OCTOBER
- Making Sense of Our World Through Space Science and Technology 2pm-3pm
- Virtual stargazing party with Jerusalema hitmaker Master KG 8pm-9pm
THURSDAY 29 OCTOBER
- Space as an aid to a sustainable planet 6pm-7pm
Five more fantastic months of science inspiration follow:
November 2020: Climate change
December 2020: Agriculture
January 2021: Arts in Science
February 2021: Indigenous Knowledge Systems
March 2021: Innovation in all fields
Scifest Manager Freddy Mashate says the programme includes not only online seminars (webinars), but also, workshops, exhibits, competitions and science shows curated to cater for Scifest Africa’s diverse audience.
“Although going virtual translates to growth and reaching greater audiences, we are is worried about the digital divide,” Mashate said.
Bi-monthly newsletters will be issued to local schools to partly address this gap.
A running vlog will feature a current science affairs news bulletin, an Unpacking & Previews session on monthly themes and their programmes, Sci-Action – an explosion of monthly stunts and the science behind them, as well as Sci-Mythbusters. Each of these sessions will be showcased once a month on social media platforms: Facebook (@ScifestAfrica), Twitter (@GhtScifest), Instagram(@scifestafrica), and YouTube (Scifest Africa).
Click here to see what’s coming up: https://scifest.nationalartsfestival.co.za/ – once you click on the event preview, you’ll see the option to REGISTER. For more information, contact the Scifest Africa Team: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 046 603 1106