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Shared Sky in Manchester
Shared Sky images
Image Credit: Shared Sky

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Manchester is the place to go to see spectacular art linking astronomy and indigenous culture – but hurry!

Shared Sky is a celebration of the cuture of peoples living around the sites of the Square Kilometre Array telescopes, in Western Australia and Soth Africa. The touring exhibition is currently on show in Manchester's Central Library, but only until 3 September this year. 

Shared Sky is a Square Kilometre Array project to link both the two array sites and the worldviews of the people who live in these necessaruly sparsely-populated regions. Work by Aboriginal Yamaji Artists from Western Australia and a collaborative quilt from South African indigenous artists, shown in this image, are examples of the materials on show, which reflect the long cultural heritage embodied in tradtiional beliefs. Their experession by modern artists has something in common with the new understanding that SKA hopes to gain from these new instruments, in turn building on the scientific heritage of astronomy. 

The artists from Western Australia are descendants of, or connected to, Wajarri people who traditionally lived as hunters and gatherers on the site of the Australian SKA. They have shared their ancestral knowledge of the skies with SKA scientists and their artwork in the Shared Sky exhibit expresses their sky view. 

Artists from South Africa have produced quilts that celebrate their heritage, depicting creation myths and traditional stories from the central Karoo. Some of the artists are descendants of the San people whose language, /Xam, died out at the end of the nineteenth century. Their quilts represent a visual language that goes back to tranditional /Xam stories.

The Shared Sky exhibition is open until 3 September 2016 in Manchester's Central LIbrary. Admission is free. 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.


“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.

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