Last week I visited Humanity, an evolution exhibition at the Iziko South African Museum of Natural History – situated in the Company Gardens. (It is time the Company Gardens be renamed!) I highly recommend this exhibition as it invites us to reflect on ‘What makes us the SAME’, ‘What makes us DIFFERENT’ and ‘What makes us HUMAN’.
The exhibition makes an important stand against discrimination and racism in particular. It states clearly that “Races are not real. Racism is”. We are reminded that every single human being shares 99.9 % identical DNA with the next person. How the world needs to be reminded that every painfilled legacy of discriminatory othering is based on less than 0.1% of a human being!
The exhibition that is profound in its simplicity and accessibility critiques how evolution studies have been studied and communicated over the years. In this way it ‘decolonises’ this discipline. Remember a couple of years back some people were asking how it was possible to ‘decolonise’ science, after all “science is science” they said. Well, this exhibition is a brilliant example of decolonising education. It reveals the historical biases (and blatant prejudices) of white men in the field of evolutionary studies. The exhibition exposes stuff that I took for granted and never even thought to question.
This example of decolonising of education is a challenge to all of us to critique our own fields of interest or expertise. For example, if we look at the inside structure of CMM with its fixed pews in straight lines, it is easy to see column of colonial soldiers marching in straight lines. Eyes front! Focused on the back of the soldiers’ head in front of them. No talking! Only one person speaks. The commander in the front – who shouts the commands. Everyone else must listen and obey. So instead of community we have columns. Instead of “braided” truth we have single truth spoken. Instead of seeing each other’s faces – we see the back of each other’s heads. We don’t know if a person is happy or sad, weeping or frowning. Sadly, this model is replicated over and over again – even in churches without fixed pews. Free standing chairs are placed in straight rows revealing how we willingly participate in our own “confinement” opting for columns over community, and so undermining the gospel we proclaim.
May we continue to learn… unlearn… relearn…