Sea-Change is a not-for-profit foundation based in South Africa. We are developing a multi-media project that tells the story of the birth of humanity, and the ancient relationship we all have with the sea.
The latest scientific evidence shows that the first modern humans lived at the coast on the southern tip of Africa, in what is now the Western Cape of South Africa. The archeological records at the “point of origin” show the first evidence of cognitive human development, early nuclear family life, art and human values that we associate with modern humans today.
The leap in our evolution to become Homo sapiens is arguably the greatest “sea-change” in the 250,000 year history of our species. The phrase “sea-change” was first coined by Shakespeare in The Tempest, and it means a profound transformation wrought by nature. It appears that this transformation was wrought in part by our relationship with the sea, as it is believed that the high nutrient content in seafood harvested from the abundant rocky shoreline and kelp forests fuelled the brain and upgraded the architecture of our minds. Because we all share the same ancestors, the southern tip of Africa is quite possibly the original home of everyone alive today.
We know that our species has an ancient relationship with water and the sea. Rock art from southern Africa, the greatest outdoor art gallery on earth, depicts the journey that shamans took into their spirit world, which they likened to going underwater. The art record also shows how shamans encountered fish, turtles and water snakes in trance, and transformed into “therianthropes”, such as half human/half fish beings.
This art shows a deep understanding and association with creatures from the underwater realm. Strangely, even San shamans living deep in the Kalahari, who have never even been underwater, have experiences of being underwater during trance or altered states. This suggests that water has great symbolic relevance and power in our collective unconscious.
Humans also experience incredible physiological transformations in the sea. In fact, everyone begins life floating in amniotic fluid that holds a 99% similar chemical composition to seawater, and human blood has a chemical composition 98% similar to seawater. An infant will reflexively breaststroke when placed underwater and can comfortably hold her breath for about 40 seconds, which is longer than many adults can. We lose this ability only when we learn how to walk.
We live on this same “point of origin” stretch of coastline, and have been swimming and diving in the pristine kelp forests for many years in an attempt to re-encounter nature as we believe our ancestors did. On our journey we have slowly discovered a matrix of life that is astounding in its beauty and complexity. We have found new species and behaviours, and we have had encounters with wild animals that we once thought was impossible. We have learnt how the cold, nutrient-rich sea water positively effects our bodies and our minds. We have also learnt how to track underwater. Most importantly we have rediscovered how to play, and all of this has had a profound effect on our well-being and our appreciation of the miracle we find ourselves living in.
At this time of human-driven biological collapse (scientists are calling this the 6th extinction) we are compelled to share our story. We hope this inspires you to find a way to make connections with your natural world wherever you may find yourself. In doing so we believe the San of the Kalahari when they said this process makes “ropes to God”, and thereby heals our world.
Our work is guided by some of the most distinguished professionals in the world, and you can see our list of advisors here, and read more about our team here. Our work to-date includes a temporary exhibition at the Sea-Point Promenade in Cape Town through 2015, and a permanent exhibition at Bird Island in Lamberts Bay, South Africa. The next phase of the project will comprise a travelling photographic exhibition with augmented reality content, a film and a book (due mid-2017). We are also developing an insert for BBC’s forthcoming Blue Planet series.
To see a trailer for the Sea-Change Project, please see here.