Universiteit Leiden

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Charmaine Green

In Leiden, Indigenous artists share their view of the night sky

On Saturday October 16, the special exhibition ‘Shared Sky: Canvases of the Universe’ opens in the Old Observatory in Leiden. The exhibit takes a cultural look at the starry sky by Aboriginal Australian and South African artists, and features colorful artwork that explores how these Indigenous cultures gave meaning to the appearance and position of familiar patterns in the sky.

The artworks explore the genesis of myths and stories around the sky, and demonstrate an in-depth understanding of celestial mechanics. They have been carefully passed down from one generation to the next in both cultures for thousands of years. Now they are shared with the visitor through quotes from the artists that follow each painting. Aboriginal artists from the Midwest of Western Australia and African artists from the San and native to South Africa's central Karoo region have created works of art in light of the ancestral stories of the night sky — a starry sky they both see and share — spanning their traditional homelands.

The world's largest radio telescope

The SKA Observatory is a worldwide collaboration of member states whose mission is to build and operate the world’s newest and most advanced radio telescopes to expand our understanding of the universe. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, the two sets of telescopes will be built in Western Australia and South Africa and will become the most advanced networks of radio telescopes on Earth. Together with other modern research facilities, SKAO's telescopes will explore the frontiers of science and deepen our understanding of key processes, such as the formation and development of galaxies and the origin of life. Earlier this year, the kickstart was given for the construction of the SKA telescopes. The Netherlands is one of the founders of this telescope and ASTRON is leading the Dutch contribution to its construction. The exhibition shows exactly what contribution the Netherlands is making as it gives a glimpse of one of the telescope antennas that will be built in Western Australia.

‘Shared Sky: Canvases of the Universe’ is available for visitation in the Old Observatory in Leiden. The Old Observatory is open on weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (entrance via Hortus Botanicus Leiden). During the Art Science Week 2021 in Leiden, the Old Observatory is open from 9-14 November (Tuesday-Sunday).

Shared Sky

Shared Sky was conceived in collaboration with the Yamaji Art Centre, Geraldton, Western Australia and the First People Center at the Bethesda Arts Centre, Nieu Bethesda, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Shared Sky is presented by the international SKA Observatory (SKAO), Manchester, UK; the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory (SARAO), Cape Town, South Africa; the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER), Canberra, Australia, in association with Curtin University's Institute of Radio Astronomy and the John Curtin Gallery. The Dutch edition of the Shared Sky exhibition is a co-production of the Leiden Observatory and ASTRON, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy.

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