South Africa is a proud rainbow nation built on its rich history and diverse heritage. A heritage so dense thanks to the storytelling of our ancestors. Through its partnership with Canon South Africa, the Rock Art Research Institute (RARI) of the University of the Witwatersrand hosts ‘Diverse People Unite’, a celebration of the national coat of arms and motto, at the Origins Centre. It showcases the famous ‘Linton Panel’, an archaeological masterpiece with some of the finest details ever to be found in rock art. The panel, which is housed in Cape Town’s Iziko Museum, tells its story of what our ancestors believed, in the rituals and visions of San shamans. The excavated rock details a number of images, one of which was incorporated into the South African national coat of arms, designed in 2000 after being commissioned by then SA President, Thabo Mbeki.
Two decades on, we felt it was time to remind the world of the creation of the emblem, grounded in our rich heritage. Sam Challis (RARI) and Roger Machin (Canon SA) had the idea of showcasing Canon’s capabilities with a larger than life-sized image of the incredible painted panel from which the national shield took its inspiration. It also explains Wits’ role in the creation of the national motto, written in the |xam San language: !ke e: |xarra ||ke, ‘Diverse People Unite’. The exhibition, which is on show until 17 January 2021, was made possible by the photographic craftmanship and visual storytelling of Cape Town born, Andy Lund. Lund’s passion for capturing the beautiful phenomena of life shows us how remarkable the Linton Panel is to South Africa’s history and its people’s heritage. Not only a gifted photographer, Lund’s talents transcend a vast array of artistic fields, with him donning the hats of musician and creative director, among others. It was because of this that Roger Machin could not find a more worthy photographer to document the panel. Using a revolutionary gigapixel technique, over 450 images were captured at 50 million pixels each to enhance the finest of details of the image to be printed.
It has been said that we look to the past to understand the future. ‘Diverse People Unite’ signifies how South Africa is moving forward armed with the knowledge of the past. South[ern] Africa boasts some of the finest and well-preserved original rock art in the world, with part of its continued conservation in the hands of RARI. The incorporation of the figures in the national coat of arms emphasises the deeply ingrained roots of the country. Not only is the exhibition a celebration of rich artistic history, but it also commemorates another landmark milestone and institution of South Africa, the centenary of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Canon’s investment in South Africa, its people and their stories helped to enable the creation of this exhibition. Taking advantage of their cutting-edge technology and by using an ultra-high-resolution facsimile, the Linton Panel is unveiled in lifelike detail, as never before seen. This commitment to the country is personified in Canon’s Managing Director, David Preston and his great passion for people, that rivals his passion for photography. David believes in innovative transformation: “Helping people to capture exceptional images of this great country and seeing the impact it can have on the lives of individuals is truly exciting and very closely aligned not only with our own Canon philosophy of ‘Kyosei’ which means “living and working together for the common good”, but also our local ‘Ubuntu/Botho’, which is “humanity to others” or an even more fitting meaning, “I am what I am because of who we all are”.
Canon SA is committed to working with RARI towards being recognised as a foremost institute in the preservation of historical and cultural artefacts. Through this sponsorship, Canon South Africa has provided three transformation posts for the RARI Digitisation Lab, which will also highlight Canon’s competence in the world of digital storytelling.
When people passionate about storytelling work together, their narratives and history come to life. Canon celebrates people coming together, united in and defined by their rich heritage.
‘Diverse People Unite’ is on exhibition from 29 November until 17 January 2021 at the Wits Origins Centre, Johannesburg. Cost to attend: adults – R81, pensioners – R66, kids/students – R40. All visitors will receive a print out of a re-drawing of the Linton Panel with explanations of the different imagery. Exhibition times:
Saturday and Public Holidays: 09h00-16h00, and will be open until 16 December.