HUMANITY: Reimagining the story of human evolution


Iziko Museums of South Africa, in collaboration with the Human Evolution Research Institute (HERI) at the University of Cape Town (UCT), launched a new exhibition entitled: ‘HUMANITY’ at the Iziko South African Museum. The exhibition reimagines the story of human evolution as centered on the diversity of humans today and how we came to be that way. It focuses on the rich record of people found in South Africa and Africa. In doing so, it reimagines our origins as a story of intelligence, creativity, and endurance through time.

“We are hoping to take visitors on a new kind of journey, one that explores our diversity and how we became who we are today. We are bringing together our future and our past for all of us to share in the present” says Dr Wendy Black, Chief Curator Art and Social History, Iziko Museums of South Africa.

Visitors emersed in the Humanity experience on show at the Iziko South African Museum © Robyn Walker/HERI.

Africa has shown itself to be the cradle of humanity with the oldest fossil remains of our distant relatives all found there, and nearly everything we know about early human evolution coming from the African continent,” says HERI co-director Professor Rebecca Ackermann.

Entering the exhibition is an immersive experience, where walls are shrouded in handcrafted reeds that tower to a star-filled sky. The effect transports visitors from the typical museum space to a place where ancient storytelling – or lessons – seems natural.

‘Humanity, an immersive experience on show at the Iziko South African Museum © Robyn Walker/HERI.

Visitors then meet a snapshot of modern humanity through photographs, by renowned artist Pieter Hugo, and interviews with several South Africans, including prominent figures like Cape Town comic, Marc Lottering. By sharing their story of what it means to be human, the stage is set to move back in time to our deep past.

The past, captured with awe-inspiring fossils and artefacts from across the continent – including a wall covered in ancient handaxes – that paint a picture of how biology, technology, and culture have played a part in the emergence of us. Encapsulating this interconnectedness of the past with the present is a one-of-a-kind mural from Cape Town Street art pioneer and artist, Maxwell Southgate, better known as Mak1One.

‘A glimpse of the art installation by Mak1One created for the Humanity exhibition on show at the
Iziko South African Museum © Robyn Walker/HERI.

In HUMANITY, human evolution is told as an inclusive story of resilience and adaptability of people against the backdrop of change and challenge through time,” observes Dr Wayne Florence, Research and Exhibitions Director at Iziko Museums.

A diverse group of funders, including GENUS and Past, made HUMANITY possible. Curated by Dr Wendy Black, the exhibition is the product of a diverse team of co-creators, which included South African and African researchers, academics, community leaders, living human treasures and representatives from different interest groups. The result is a genuine effort to decolonise the exhibit, where ownership of the narrative is truly African.

Through HUMANITY, Iziko Museums aims to further encourage critical reflections and ownership of humanity’s rich history and heritage and to inspire a new generation of storytellers. The exhibition forms part of a series of projects that Iziko Museums has in preparation for its bicentenary in 2025. We invite members of the public to engage with it and to give the museum their feedback,” says Dr Bongani Ndhlovu, the Acting CEO of Iziko Museums of South Africa.

The artist Mak1One at the opening of Humanity. © Mariette van der Walt/GENUS

Exhibition details:
Iziko South African Museum, 25 Queen Victoria Road, Cape Town. Open Monday to Sunday from 09:00 until 17:00
Email: or call Tel: 021 481 3800
For school group enquiries and bookings, contact or Tel: 021 481 3832

Issued on behalf of the Office of the CEO, Iziko Museums of South Africa
Issued by: Melody Kleinsmith, Marketing and Communications Manager, Iziko Museums of South Africa