PAST launches All From One campaign and exhibition at Standard Bank South Africa to celebrate the world’s shared human origins in Africa

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The Palaeontological Scientific Trust (PAST) and its key partners, which include the Department of Science and Technology and Standard Bank, on 10 November 2015, launched the All From One campaign and exhibition at Standard Bank’s Rosebank building, 30 Baker St, to celebrate Africa as the birthplace of humankind and improve the public’s awareness of their shared origins and the shared origins of all life forms.

The All from One exhibition will be located outside Standard Bank from 11 November 2015 until 31 January 2016.

A lack of tolerance for others is one of the major ills besetting society today and the campaign heralds the remarkable fact that there is a 99.9% similarity between the chemical sequences making up the genes of any two people.

Guests at the All from One launch event were able to join campaign ambassadors in exploring their own ancient ancestry based on a simple DNA test.

“When we use science as our guide, it is clear the racial distinctions that began to appear only as recently as 50,000 years ago as our ancestors populated the world from the African homeland are superficial and have no bearing on our capabilities or character,” says PAST CEO, Andrea Leenen.

Science shows that 99.9% of the 3.2 billion nucleotides in your genome occur in the same sequence as in as any other member of the human species.

“The scientific fact is humans are 99.9% alike, with just a few genes making for the differences in skin colour,” says Prof Robert Blumenschine, Chief Scientist at PAST.

The exhibition is set to travel to Soweto for the Zindala Zombili African Music and Dance Festival in February and then the plan is to take it to Cape Town and in 2017 to tour in East Africa (Kenya & Tanzania) and then West Africa (Nigeria and Ghana). Plans are also being developed to launch the campaign and exhibition in the U.A.E. with an event in Abu Dhabi hosted by Sheikh Nahayan, the U.A.E. Minister of Culture, and PAST’s Middle East Campaign Patron. In 2016/2017, the PAST Exhibition is proposed to travel to London, New York and/or Washington.

“Our future is rooted in our common humanity and it is this common humanity that can act as a powerful tool for securing a vibrant, peaceful society. It is right here in Africa where this journey of understanding and action truly begins,” says Leenen.

The global campaign will be promoted by international patrons known world-wide for their advocacy of human rights. Created by the PAST Executive team of Andrea Leenen and Prof. Robert Blumenschine, the campaign’s development is being guided by a committee comprising PAST’s chairman, Rick Menell, PAST trustees Robin Gibbs, Dr. Homer Matuba, Zweli Mntambo, Mike Nayler, and PAST Patrons Jay Naidoo and Johnny Clegg.

The All from One campaign seeks to commit people from across the world to four human ideals validated by the science of our origins: tolerance, unity, collaboration and conservation. People will be able to commit to these four campaign ideals at the exhibition or online at www.past.org.za

“If we are through and through an African species, people everywhere need to understand they all emerged from a common ancestor. To continue looking to skin colour and our other minor differences, whether they are physical or cultural, to pursue different future paths will not move us forward,” says Ms. Leenen. Likewise, “an appreciation for the shared origins of all living things is essential to conserving our natural environments and Earth’s biodiversity,” adds Prof. Blumenschine.

Standard Bank is the primary sponsor of the Africa leg of the campaign and the Department of Science and Technology, the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement (SAASTA) are sponsors of the exhibition. The National Arts Council, meanwhile, already counts PAST as their Institutional Partner for Social Cohesion and will help to fund future arts education initiatives through PAST’s Walking Tall Educational Theatre Project and in association with the exhibition. PAST’s other partners for the campaign are the African Cultural Heritage Trust, the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA) and the Zindala Zombili Music and Dance Festival.

Replication and distribution of the exhibition throughout South Africa and to museums internationally will occur during subsequent phases of the project. A digital version of the exhibition has also been launched on the PAST website (www.past.org.za).

“The launch of the All from One campaign is a major leap forward in bringing science and the story of humankind into the schools and living rooms of all South Africans, as well as into boardrooms. We encourage everyone to visit the exhibition, and take on board the rich lessons to be learned,” says Sim Tshabalala chief executive, Standard Bank Group.

PAST is a non-profit organisation dedicated to preserving Africa’s rich fossil heritage and making it valuable to humankind’s future. It was instrumental in ensuring that research at the now renowned Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, including at the Sterkfontein Caves, has been sustained since 1994. It has supported education, research and public understanding into our human origins for over two decades and the All from One Campaign counts as one of its most ambitious projects to date. PAST’s champions have included the late internationally renowned Emeritus Professor Phillip Tobias, and include the award winning singer, songwriter and anthropologist Johnny Clegg.

“Preserving our planet starts with respecting all people as well as all other species. It is only by understanding where we came from as a species and how we are related to other species, that we can understand how we all can live in harmony and why a harmonious existence is important for every species wanting to survive and thrive,” concludes Leenen.

ZWELI SIKHAKHANE

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