Australopithecus sediba by Amita Makan
The discovery of the two million year-old pair of fossilised skeletons at the Cradle of Humankind in April 2010, called Australopithecus sediba, is enthralling. The fossils, presumably of a mother and son, are said to be the “direct ancestors of modern humans”, and the “immediate ancestor of Homo Erectus”.
This work, entitled “Australopithecus sediba”, is inspired by the idea that all of humanity can be traced to a common source, and that we are all profoundly connected and related. This is a befitting commemoration of World Art Day.
According to South African palaeoanthropologist, Lee Berger, the species, Australopithecus sediba,
“… possessed an extraordinary mix of primitive apelike features alongside traits that define modern humans today.... Australopithecus sediba has the beginning of our face.”
On April 15 we commemorate the birthday of the Italian Master, Leonardo da Vinci, celebrated the world over for, amongst other things, his painting of the “Mona Lisa” or “La Gioconda” - “the cheerful one”. The Mona Lisa’s smile has long intrigued and captivated viewers.
Berger says, Australopithecus sediba had developed facial muscles, and “they could probably smile, and that is something unique to humans.…”
Australopithecus sediba may then be humanity’s first Mona Lisa.
I have interpreted Australopithecus sediba in fine stitches with silken and metallic threads on a canvas of fragile silk chiffon. The hand embroidered stitches, fabric canvas with the creases and the perspex frame, together constitute human traces, and are symbolic of the genus Homo (humans) who were to follow.
The palette of “Australopithecus sediba” is reminiscent of the Mona Lisa’s earthy tones. Da Vinci described the human body as “a metaphor for the earth. He compares flesh to soil, bones to rocks, and blood to waterways” (Adams, 2002: 575).
The work is interactive as our silhouettes are visible through “Australopithecus sediba” and becomes an intermediary reminder of “the ancient form from which modern humans arose”.
Khan, Tamar “New apeman species found at Cradle” in Business Day, 9 April 2010.
Adams, Laurie Schneider Art Across Time Second Edition, McGraw-Hill , New York, 2002.
Sample, Ian “Australopithecus sediba may be an ancestor of modern humans Researchers say two skeletons found in a cave in South Africa may belong to a species that was the direct ancestor of Homo erectus, and hence modern humans” in guardian.co.uk, 8 September 2011.