The Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux and Africa at Sci-Bono Discovery Centre

IN A FIRST for Africa, the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in Johannesburg, in collaboration with the French Embassy in Pretoria and the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), are bringing a replica of the world-famous Lascaux cave paintings and the cave itself to South Africa.


The Palaeolithic cave paintings, found in 1940 in the Lascaux caves near the village of Montignac in Dordogne, southwestern France, are around 17 000 years old and are mostly of large animals native to the region at the time. They are regarded as masterpieces because of their outstanding quality and sophistication.


Celebrating the earliest artworks created by humans on two continents


The replica amazes and fills with awe everyone who sees it. It’s an exact reproduction of more than 2 000 figures painted on the walls of the caves. They will go on show at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre in May, alongside prehistoric South African rock art, for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage with humanity’s earliest impulse for creative expression.


The world’s first examples of art and symbolism, found in Southern Africa, are more than 100 000 years old, while Europe is home to some of the world’s most well-preserved prehistoric cave-art sites.


This will be the first time that the Lascaux paintings will be exhibited alongside the oldest African art, celebrating the earliest works created by humans on two continents.


The Lascaux and African rock paintings have much in common and point to one essential truth: there’s more that unites and binds us as people and cultures than there is that divides us.


The South African component of the exhibition, The Dawn of Art, is curated by the University of the Witwatersrand’s Rock Art Research Institute, the Origins Centre and IFAS-Recherche. It will include photographs of iconic South African rock art, as well as a display of priceless authentic pieces.


The Lascaux cave replica was meticulously recreated using materials and tools identical to those that the original artists used about 17 000 years ago.


“We are excited, honoured and proud to host this remarkable, one-of-a-kind exhibition,” says Sci-Bono Discovery Centre CEO Dr More Chakane. “The combined exhibition will be seen nowhere else on earth. The masterpieces by our own African ancestors, viewed alongside those of the ancient Paleolithic Europeans, provide a unique opportunity to experience the very earliest dawn of human creativity.”


Highlights South Africa/France cooperation in culture, research and science


French ambassador to South Africa Christophe Farnaud adds: “France is proud to partner with Sci-Bono Discovery Centre to bring the Lascaux International Exhibition to Johannesburg, a first for Africa. As art and symbolism originated in Southern Africa, it will showcase an important part of our shared heritage. The exhibition highlights our long-lasting cooperation in the fields of culture, research and science in South Africa.”


The Lascaux exhibition was created by the Departmental Council of Dordogne, with the support of the Regional Council of New Aquitaine, the French Ministry of Culture and Communication and the European Union. The exhibition’s worldwide tour is organised by the SPL Lascaux International Exhibition.


The Wonders of Rock Art sponsors include French banking group BNP Paribas and its South African subsidiary RCS; global oil and gas company Total South Africa; and Bolloré Transport & Logistics South Africa.


“BNP Paribas is committed to the development of the arts in South Africa. We see our partnership with the Lascaux Exhibition as a powerful way of celebrating diversity and believe it is important to create opportunities for all members of the community to gain access to different forms of arts and culture,” says BNP Paribas South Africa CEO Vikas Khandelwal.


RCS CEO Regan Adams adds: “We, as RCS, are passionate about French/South African collaborations, specifically in the arts and culture arena. We are thrilled as main sponsor to launch the internationally acclaimed Lascaux Exhibition here on home ground.”


Total South Africa comments that investment in the arts is one the focus areas of the company’s corporate social investment programme and “arts and culture are key to creating social cohesion and national pride”. It is therefore crucial for Total “to support the building of nations, especially as citizens of a greater global village”.


Builds bridges and brings people together


Bolloré Transport & Logistics South Africa is the official logistics sponsor of the exhibition and states that the company is “extremely excited to be part of this event, as it supports cultural development and showcases French prehistory in South Africa”. The organisation adds: “Arts and culture help us to express our values, build bridges between cultures and countries and brings us together. Our contribution to this exhibition will afford learners from disadvantaged communities the opportunity participate in workshops and to be hosted by Sci-Bono.”


Work will start soon on assembling the exhibition, which opens at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre at the corner of Miriam Makeba and Helen Joseph Streets in Newtown on 17 May 2018.


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