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Symposium on science and society in Africa

SCIENCE FICTION: Author Professor Nnedi Okorafor

SCIENCE FICTION: Author Professor Nnedi Okorafor

Published Sep 27, 2015


Arts writer

THE importance of science in society will be in the spotlight at a symposium in Cape Town which will draw high-profile leaders in their fields from across Africa. The symposium has been organised by the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) which is made up of 50 of the top scientists in South Africa, all under the age of 40.

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Dr Tolu Oni, SAYAS co-chair and Senior Lecturer in the School of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of Cape Town, said: “This year’s truly interdisciplinary symposium looks set to be an exciting, one-of-a-kind hybrid event that showcases the relevance and importance of science in society.”

Science fiction writers, musicians, designers, astrophysicists and public health scientists are among the speakers at the symposium

Entitled Fact, Fiction and Media: Re-Imagining Science Engagement and its impact, the symposium will focus on ways other than traditional scientific communication to spark interest in science. This will include sound and images, such as music, film and the visual arts that can be used to produce data and engage society about science in Africa. It will also explore what science can learn from science fiction writing.

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The symposium will bring together renowned Nigerian-American professor in creative writing and science fiction novelist, Professor Nnedi Okorafor; local science fiction novelist Lauren Beukes; and Dr Oni, who is a Next Einstein Forum Fellow, on a panel about popular fiction inspired by science.

Musician Neo Muyanga will be on a panel with Professor Jean Philippe Uzan, an astrophysicist who has created ‘sounds of the universe’. School learners called the Optimistic Youth Reporters from the Children’s Radio Foundation, will also record their peers at the Centre of Science and Technology (COSAT) High School in Khayelitsha, answering questions about science that will be replayed at the symposium.

These same question will be put to scientists at the symposium to highlight how science is viewed by young people.

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SA Research Chair in Urban Policy, UCT academic, Professor Edgar Pieterse will be in conversation with Tau Tavengwa, Editor and Publisher of Cityscapes Magazine, while UCT historian, Dr Koni Benson, who has done extensive work on women’s resistance to slum clearance in Crossroads, will discuss her collaboration with illustrators The Trantraal Brothers.

Curators of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) Shared Sky exhibition at the National Gallery will also be featured.

SAYAS, established by the Department of Science and Technology in 2011, is the voice of young scientists. Dr Oni says: “We are very excited about the symposium. We hope young people are inspired and encouraged to pursue science. We also hope to show the potential for science to address societal challenges.”

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The symposium will be held at the Inner City Ideas Cartel, first floor, 72 Waterkant Street from 8am and 5pm today and tomorrow.

l Download the programme: fact-fiction-media-science.tumblr. com/final-programme. Information: 021 650 4976,

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