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pattern recognition

NTU is working on a cosmic scale. The global south and the western world are elements of a much bigger picture, in both space and time. Drawings of the earth, images of the sun, maps of the stars. The thought that sunspot activity might influence life on earth prompts thoughts of other interventions too.

I had worn this ring for years before someone recognised it as a piece of west African jewellry designed to suit the tastes of European settlers sometime in the nineteenth century. The signs of the zodiac it depicts are western - right? Or do they come from Africa? A glance at the diagram stolen from Kemet in the late eighteenth century, and now on display in the Louvre, leaves little doubt that the western signs are derived from Egyptian astrology. In many African traditions, other patterns are recognised. The three stars of Orion's belt are zebras, or pigs, sometimes three old men, or a hunter with a companion and prey. To the Dogon people of Mali, they were steps to heaven.

They should know: legends and speculative fictions about Dogon contact with the Nommos, creatures from the Sirius cluster of stars, abound. From these non-binary amphibian visitors, they learned about Po Tolo, the star known in the west as Sirius B. But until the 1860s, when it was first seen through a telescope, hiding, as it were, behind Sirius itself, this star was invisible, and so unknown to westerners. Did the Dogon first hear of Sirius B from twentieth century western anthropologists? Had they always known? How can we distinguish old knowledge from new, ancient wisdom from western thought, the colonised from the colonial?

In the star chart pasted onto one of walls in the Kunsthalle, there are clues: an automatic rifle, a clenched fist. No peace without justice. No justice yet.


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