Our Flowstars proved they were rock stars too when they pulled off the opening of the Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa exhibition at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre with lashings of Franco-African flair and fabulousness.

The exhibition opening, held on Thursday 17 May 2018, drew an enthusiastic and positive response from the 200-plus guests who experienced (pre)history in the making as the giant, life-sized replica of a section of France’s 17 000-year-old Lascaux cave and its rich repository of paintings came to Africa for the first time.

Rock of ages! The images of Stone Age creatures and symbols have been recreated with immaculate attention to detail. (Image: Preston Moodley)

The scene was set even before guests explored the Stone Age rock art: the Sci-Bono entrance was dressed up to resemble a cave, as was the room in which the launch was held – evoking an enigmatic era dating back millennia to the dawn of humanity.

Fittingly, since the Palaeolithic cave dwellers are regarded as the world’s first “graffiti artists”, an artist was on-site to create a giant mural teeming with mystical symbols and creatures on the Sci-Bono facade.

Fantastic beasts ... A graffiti artist paints a mural at Sci-Bono to evoke the ancient rock art within. (Image: Preston Moodley)

One of the exhibition’s sponsors, the French Institute of South Africa (IFAS), says that “it was an absolute pleasure to welcome so many people” – including dignitaries such as French ambassador Christophe Farnaud and Sci-Bono chief executive Dr More Chakane, as well as 60 high school pupils – to the exhibition opening.

“There was an array of different guests, from archaeologists to Instagrammers and high school learners, and it was a real joy to see them marvel at the Lascaux cave replicas and attentively explore the labyrinth of interactive and educational stations,” says IFAS.

It was also “incredibly satisfying” to see the interest in the South African Dawn of Art companion exhibition, including a rock art world map and an ochre painting workshop, which was “great fun”, IFAS adds.

French ambassador Christophe Farnaud adds his fingerprints to the Dawn of Art panel for posterity. (Image: Preston Moodley)

Dr Tammy Reynard, the curator of Wits University’s Origins Centre, says she also enjoyed watching guests create their own artworks and add their fingerprints to the Dawn of Art panel.

She describes the build-up to the exhibition as “a wonderful experience”. “Lascaux has always been an iconic cave to me, since my parents visited it in the ’70s and told me about it, and so to have this exhibit here in Joburg is awesome.

“But then to also be working so closely with the teams, and to be involved in the creation of a Southern African exhibition to accompany it, is really a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The Lascaux exhibit itself is phenomenal and a must-see, as are the original pieces of some of the world's oldest art – engraved ostrich eggshells and ochre from South Africa,” she says.

From the seamless running of the event, few would have imagined the amount of work that had gone on behind the scenes. “From an event perspective, it was a resounding success,” says Sally-Ann Niven, one of Flow’s project managers.

“Just think: we took an empty warehouse-like space and transformed it into an intimate, stylish venue, complete with sound and lighting, a big screen, covered chairs, shweshwe tablecloths, Africa cut-outs, aloes, marimbas – the works. The room was turned into (almost) a cave, and the ambience was amazing.”

Sci-Bono CEO Dr More Chakane poses with staff and school pupils at the opening. (Image: Preston Moodley)

Organising a large event of this nature can be seen as a major feather in Flow’s cap, in addition to handling the public relations and marketing for this prestigious cross-continental exhibition. “From the vox pops we did afterwards, it was clear that people were blown away,” says Sally-Ann. “And we were trending second and third on Twitter.”

Fellow Flowstar Chadwin Chetty agrees that the event was “impressive”. He says: “It flowed – from the name badges to the photos and the gift bags to the nicely decorated venue, there were no glitches and it ran smoothly. The teamwork was amazing.”

Flowstars on fleek make for teamwork in action! (Image: Preston Moodley)

Adds IFAS: “It has been a real honour to be involved in bringing such a cutting-edge exhibition to Johannesburg, and even more so to observe the excitement and curiosity of our guests … Also, this exhibition is filling the gap between generations: audiences of all ages have already been seen walking through the ancient rock art on display from both countries … We look forward to seeing how the public engages with the exhibition in the months to come.”

French and African Palaeolithic rock art meet in the Wonders of Rock Art exhibition. (Image: Preston Moodley)

Jenny Crwys Williams of Kaya FM will be broadcasting live from the Wonders of Rock Art: Lascaux Cave and Africa exhibition on Saturday 2 June 2018 from 9am till noon – be sure to tune in! The exhibition is on at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Johannesburg, until 1 October 2018. Book online at www.scibono.co.za.

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