BEGINNINGS: A visitor examines an embryo.
BEGINNINGS: A visitor examines an embryo.
SLOUCH: A chess player deep in thought.
SLOUCH: A chess player deep in thought.
MUSCULATURE: A basket ball player in action.
MUSCULATURE: A basket ball player in action.
ON THE BALL: Plastinates depicting a soccer team.
ON THE BALL: Plastinates depicting a soccer team.

* On show at the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront until October 23

* Features 16 new body plastinates - including a unique floating couple for adult viewing only

* On display for the first time are over 160 organs, body parts and transparent body slices


Cape Town - Brought to Cape Town by Great World Exhibitions, the bodies on display have been willed by donors who want to increase the public’s awareness of the human body.

To date, more than 16 000 donors from around the world have bequeathed their bodies after death to Dr. von Hagens’ Institute for Plastination in Heidelberg, Germany.

Body Worlds Vital celebrates the potential of the human body and the body in motion through aesthetic presentations of its flawless form and complex functions. Featuring authentic human bodies and compelling multimedia installations, the exhibition shows the body in health, distress and disease. It compares healthy bodies to bodies that have succumbed to a host of illnesses and medical conditions.

It reveals the human body from the structural to the cellular level through the ground-breaking science of plastination. It shows the inner body through detailed anatomical studies, intricate dissections, and aesthetic compositions that resonate with visitors. The authentic human bodies on display serve as a bridge to self-recognition and self-improvement.

The exhibition educates about the marvel that is the human body and inspires people to live with vitality and to their full potential. In this collaboration between donors, anatomist, and visitors, the donors act as guides and teachers on this journey towards health, wellness and vitality.

Plastination is a unique process invented by Dr Gunther von Hagens in 1977 to preserve specimens for medical education. The process replaces bodily fluids and fat in specimens with fluid plastics that harden after so-called vacuum-forced impregnation. After the bodies are shaped into lifelike poses, they are hardened with gas, heat, or light. The plastinates show how our bodies move in everyday life, as well as during athletic activities.

Each exhibition in the series contains real human specimens, including full-body plastinates as well as individual organs, organ configurations, and transparent body slices. The spectacular plastinates in the exhibition take the visitor on an exciting journey of discovery under the skin. It provides a comprehensive insight into the anatomy and physiology of the human body. In addition to organ functions, common diseases are described in an easily understood manner by comparing healthy and affected organs. They show the long-term impact of diseases and addictions, such as tobacco or alcohol consumption, and demonstrate the mechanics of artificial knee and hip joints.

For those who were mesmerised by the Cycle of Life exhibition that visited SA in 2013, the difference is that this exhibition presents a special collection of specimens designed to show visitors the basics for human health and wellness.

Whereas the previous Cycle of Life exhibition focused on the aging process, Vital tells the fascinating story of how best to fight life-threatening diseases – such as cancer, diabetes, and heart ailments – through healthy choices and lifestyle changes. The exhibit inspires visitors to assert themselves and to claim responsibility for their own health and well-being. Most of the Vital exhibits – including the 13 full body plastinates which are the biggest attraction – are new.

Visitors are particularly intrigued by the whole body plastinates including a pair of figure skaters performing a skilful lift, a soccer player dribbling a ball, and a chess player plotting his next move – each one illustrating different aspects of the body’s muscular structures, functioning and potential. “Vital is a new and different exhibition experience which is not only educational but also enlightening and in some instances life-changing,” says Tyrone Thöle, Managing Director of Great World Exhibitions.

“Surveys conducted among visitors after six months demonstrated the long-lasting positive effects of the exhibition on overall behaviour. Even after half a year, nine percent of the visitors smoked less or consumed less alcohol, 33percent followed a healthier diet, 25 percent engaged in more sports and 14 percent became more aware of their body.”

l Open daily 10am to 7pm. Book: Info: Tickets:


Fun facts

l Plastination was invented by Dr Gunther von Hagens in 1977 at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, and has continuously been developed since then.

l Plastination is a technique that stops the decomposition of the dead body and produces solid, odourless and durable anatomical specimens for scientific and medical training.

l The production of a human whole body plastinate requires approximately 1 500 working hours.

l The world’s largest plastinate is an adult elephant, measuring 6 x 3.5 metres.

l The Body Worlds exhibitions were created by Dr Gunther von Hagens.

l The ultimate goal of Body Worlds is health education.

l The first exhibition was held in Japan in 1995.

l Since then Body Worlds has been touring worldwide and visited more than 100 cities in Europe, America, Africa and Asia.

l Currently there are 11 exhibitions on display in America, Europe and Africa.

l More than 42 million people have seen Body Worlds , over 17 million of which in Europe, over 16 million in America and over 8 million in Asia.

l The exhibition debuted in SA in 20012/13, and drew more than 250 000 visitors.

l The exhibitions have been upgraded to include Body Worlds The Cycle of Life, The Story of the Heart, Pulse and The Happiness Project

l In 2015 the Menschen Museum, the world’s first museum dedicated to the human body, opened in Berlin. It invites visitors to contemplate what makes us human.

l Since 2010, Animal Inside Out has been touring the world. It offers a unique exploration of what lies beneath the surface of many animals, large and small.

l A body donation programme sees donors request that their bodies be used in a public exhibition after their deaths.

Cape Times