Skin colour focus of Standard Bank-PAST lectureThe Famous Idea Trading Company
The 8th Standard Bank-PAST Keynote Lecture will be presented by Prof Nina Jablonski, who will discuss Skin: Its Biology in Black and White.
The lecture will be held at the Soweto Theatre on 19 September 2012, at 18:30.
Universally recognised as the most important independent source of support for origin sciences research and education in Africa, the Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST) has been promoting and preserving southern Africa’s rich fossil heritage since its inception in 1994. Whilst retaining this core focus; PAST’s newest initiative, Scatterlings of Africa, is an ambitious effort to expand the organisation’s mission across Africa; through its seven successful programs which integrate education, research, and public outreach activities in the origin sciences.
The annual Keynote Lecture has formed an integral part of the Standard Bank’s longstanding support of PAST and has become a much-anticipated calendar event in Johannesburg. In line with PAST’s Scatterlings of Africa pan-African development campaign, and its drive to utilise the origin sciences to underscore the scientific evidence that we all share an African origin, this year’s lecture will address the origin and function of skin colour.
Skin colour is a biological characteristic loaded with cultural meaning. Skin pigmentation itself is a biological adaptation that regulates the penetration of ultraviolet radiation (UVR) into the skin. It is an evolutionary compromise between the conflicting demands of protection of the skin against UVR and of production of vitamin D by UVR. This compromise represents one of the best examples of evolution by natural selection acting on the human body. In the history of the genus Homo and of our species, Homo sapiens, skin pigmentation has been a highly changeable characteristic. Similar skin tones have evolved independently numerous times in response to similar environmental conditions. Skin colour is thus an entirely inappropriate characteristic for grouping people according to shared ancestry. The establishment of hierarchies of races based on preconceived notions of hierarchies of colour is a myth that has influenced the course of human history more adversely than any other. Greater understanding of how skin colour evolved and came to have social importance is therefore enormously relevant to human health and wellbeing, and the future of human societies.
Nina Jablonski is a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at The Pennsylvania State University in the United States. She studies the evolution of adaptations to the environment in monkeys, apes and humans. Her research comprises descriptive and functional studies of living and fossil primates and theoretical studies of aspects of primate and human traits not preserved in the fossil record. Many of her studies have involved long-term collaborations with scientists in east and south Asia, and in eastern Africa. In the last 15 years, she has been increasingly absorbed in studies of the evolution of human skin and skin colour. Prof. Jablonski is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the California Academy of Sciences. In April 2005, she was awarded one of first twelve Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowships for her research on the evolution of human skin color. She was awarded the 2007 W.W. Howells Book Award of the American Anthropological Association for her book, Skin: A Natural History (University of California Press, 2006). In 2010, she received an honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University in South Africa for her research on the evolution and social ramifications of human skin pigmentation. She is currently a Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute of Advanced Studies.
Standard Bank is the exclusive sponsor and partner to PAST’s Keynote Lecture Series, which has brought the world’s leading origin scientists to South Africa. Previous speakers include Sir Richard Dawkins, Dr. Richard Leakey, Drs. Tim White and Berhane Asfaw (co-discoverers of famous ‘Ardi’ skeleton of Ethiopia - White is with the University of California and Asfaw is one of Africa’s leading origin scientists, a member of the U.S. Science Academy and a Trustee of PAST), and Dr. Don Johanson (discoverer of the famous Lucy skeleton from Ethiopia).
The 8th Standard Bank-PAST Keynote Lecture will be presented by Prof Nina Jablonski, who will discuss Skin: Its Biology in Black and White. This event will take place at the Soweto Theatre on Wednesday 19 September 2012, at 18h30. Entrance is free and no booking is necessary. For more information visit the website www.past.org.za or contact Andrea Leenen CEO email@example.com Tel 011 717 6668.
Notes to Editors:
PAST is a South African NGO established in 1994 to promote the science of palaeontology in Africa, facilitate the unlocking of Africa’s ancient natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of Africa and the World, and thus place Africa in a position of leadership in this exclusively African field of science. It does this through 7 key initiatives: Walking Tall Schools Projects, degree support for students at African universities, technical training and capacity support, young African scientist development, research project support, Origin Sciences publications and conferences, and the facilitation of public understanding and engagement.
Scatterlings is a powerfully transformative idea that aims to extend PASTs initiatives into Africa, instilling pride in Africa as a treasure trove of human heritage, while fostering a more positive perception of the continent previously mired in biases based on superficial differences such as skin colour. It inspires scientific curiosity among learners and fulfils humankind’s fundamental need to understand it roots and diversity.
PAST has participated in a mutually rewarding association with the Standard Bank since 1998. Funding support from the Bank has had a profound influence on PAST's ability to advance the science. It helps PAST bring a knowledge of palaeontology in particular, and science in general, to school children from previously disadvantaged backgrounds through its acclaimed "Walking Tall" Educational Theatre Project. The Bank’s support has also facilitated granting of bursaries and research funding by PAST to African scholars.
PAST’s Walking Tall Project
The Walking Tall Schools Project is PAST’s signature education initiative and forms the foundation of the implementation of PAST’s overall mission. Walking Tall is a 40-minute professional theatre production that ignites interest in science through the use of physical theatre, inspiring learners, educators and members of the general public to recognise, understand and value their ancient African Heritage. The production takes the audience on a journey through time from the origins of the Earth to present day, addressing Africa’s critical role in the shaping of humanity. It showcases the origin sciences as a career track in which African researchers can be global leaders. It exposes learners to applied evolution and the emerging career opportunities this field provides in agriculture, medicine and environmental remediation. Since its inception in 2003, the project has reached over one million learners and educators in South Africa, East Africa and Europe.
The Walking Tall show is followed by an interactive question-and-answer session that reinforces the basic principles of the origin sciences (deep time, natural selection, speciation, etc.) depicted in the performance. The Q&A session also addresses complex issues such as 1) skin color as a biological adaptation that poorly represents modern human diversity, and 2) the common perception that science is in conflict with religion.
The Walking Tall Schools Project provides curriculum-based resource materials for learners and educators, educator workshops, and a monitoring and evaluation system. The workshops include a presentation on the major concepts of palaeontology, genetics and evolution; and provide information on the iconic fossil discoveries from the host country and the continent as a whole. The educator workshops are led by a professional scientist and theatre artist; pooling educators from a number of schools; and are designed to improve instruction in evolution and genetics, and, more fundamentally, to help teachers expose learners to science in a manner that makes it relevant to their lives.
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Web site: http://www.past.org.za
Soweto Theatre, Bolani Road, Jabulani Soweto Johannesburg Gauteng South Africa