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The SKA’s Shared Sky exhibition opens in Manchester

Tuesday 2 August, Manchester, UK – After Perth, Western Australia, and Cape Town, South Africa, the Shared Sky indigenous astronomy art exhibition has come to Manchester for the first time.

Shared Sky, developed by the international SKA project in close collaboration with South African and Australian artists, opened last week at Manchester Central Library, marking the first time the full exhibition is displayed in the United Kingdom. It is available at the Library until Saturday 3 September free of charge.

The exhibition is part of the Manchester European City of Science 2016 celebrations taking place in Manchester.

It was officially opened by Prof Grahame Blair, Executive Director of Programme from the Science & Technology Facilities Council during the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) conference from July 23-27, with many ESOF delegates from around the world taking time out from the conference to visit the exhibition. The opening took place in the presence of representatives from the Australian and South African government as well as some of the artists from Australia and South Africa who have produced artworks for the exhibition. 

“The Shared Sky exhibition is an excellent example of how science, art and community can collaborate. The exhibition in particular highlights the stories shared between scientists and Aboriginal artists with narratives around the universe and the Sky.” Said Charmaine Green, Director of the Yamaji Art Centre in Western Australia.

“Our /Xam ancestors were both artists and scientists. They followed the pathways the stars walked through the skies, named them, and (without radio telescopes) could hear them singing. Their creation myths chronicled the origins of the celestial bodies, and at the same time reflected wisdom about human beings that is still profoundly relevant to us today.” Said Jeny Couzyn, Artistic Director of the Bethesda Arts Centre in South Africa.

A series of 11 exclusive artistic workshops driven by the artists themselves and open to the public also took place to introduce the exhibition. “The public art workshops provided a perfect opportunity for the public to work with the visiting artists in sharing stories, styles and techniques” added Ms Green.

The exhibition has been made possible thanks to the generous support of Manchester City Council, Arts Council England and Science & Technology Facilities Council. It is part of the Manchester European City of Science 2016.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman, Executive Member for Culture and Leisure at Manchester City Council, said: “This incredible free exhibition is the latest to grace our new dedicated exhibition hall at Central Library. It offers us a fascinating insight into ancient cultures from the southern hemisphere which are still relevant today and is a must-see attraction in Manchester this summer.”

About Shared Sky

Shared Sky stems from a vision by the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) 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.

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.
In Western Australia, many of 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-19thcentury were still living a largely traditional way of life, hunting and gathering on the land that is now the site of the Australian SKA.

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.

You can find out more about Shared Sky here.


About the SKA

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, led by SKA Organisation based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester. The SKA will conduct transformational science to improve our understanding of the Universe and the laws of fundamental physics, monitoring the sky in unprecedented detail and mapping it hundreds of times faster than any current facility.

The SKA is not a single telescope, but a collection of telescopes or instruments, called an array, to be spread over long distances. The SKA is to be constructed in two phases: Phase 1 (called SKA1) in South Africa and Australia; Phase 2 (called SKA2) expanding into other African countries, with the component in Australia also being expanded.

Already supported by 10 member countries – Australia, Canada, China, India, Italy, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom – SKA Organisation has brought together some of the world’s finest scientists, engineers and policy makers and more than 100 companies and research institutions across 20 countries in the design and development of the telescope. Construction of the SKA is set to start in 2018, with early science observations in 2020.



Mathieu ISIDRO
Deputy Communications & Outreach Manager
SKA Organisation
tel: +441613069681