The night kicked off with an hors d’oeuvres buffet and featured the evening’s signature cocktail--Cosmosas!—a grapefruit mimosa made with Barefoot Pink Moscato Champagne and topped with a starfruit garnish. (The sponsor was Barefoot Wine & Bubbly.)
Attendees gather to drink Cosmosas and eat hors d’oeuvres while exploring museum artifacts.
Photo of the signature Cosmosas cocktail by our social media winner, @youngisthenewblack, who posted this photo on Instagram while at the event.
Downstairs in the galleries, Christine Mullen Kreamer, the museum’s deputy director and curator of the African Cosmos exhibit, gave a gallery talk and answered guests’ questions. Mingletons were surrounded by many works of African art in various mediums (including film), created by artists from the ancient Egyptian period to the present. They learned from Kreamer that the exhibit explores Africa’s contribution to the history of astronomical knowledge. Kreamer further explained that the heavens permeated every aspect of ancient Egyptian art and the Egyptians believed they would become one with the stars after dying. Other, more recent, African cultures believed the moon held power associated with divination and communication with spirits. In African Cosmos, ancient and modern art seem to be in conversation and all of the pieces reveal the cultural importance of the heavens regardless of time period or of geographical location.
Meanwhile, guests were able to get their hands dirty by creating their own star-inspired art activities.There was a darkened room mimicking the night sky where visitors could track their own constellations on paper while watching an informative video on the infinite nature of the galaxy. In the workshop, Gathoni Kamau and museum staff led visitors in stamping designs onto fabric in the style of the Gahanian andrinkra cloth. They also tried folding star-shaped origami.
Special patterned stamps used to create the adinkra-inspired cloth.
This attendee is beginning to stamp out her adinkra design.
Folding star-shaped origami.
The highlight of the evening was the “Star Party” led by astrophysicist Katrien Kolenberg. Kolenberg, of the Smithsonian Astro-physical Observatory, gave a spirited and fascinating talk about the pulsation of the stars, which was accompanied by musical interludes performed by self-described “musician-storyteller” Daniel Ssuuna from Uganda, Kolenberg explained that stars are flaming balls of gas that cook themselves through a convection-like process, which caused them to pulsate. They also pulsate when other stars pass nearby and “excite them,” as Kolenberg puts it. When the stars pulsate, they create a sound at a very slow frequency that can be sped up to be audible to human ears. Kolenberg amazed the audience by playing actual recordings of these star “sounds.” The sounds of different stars are unique--and all are a bit eerie. Some stars give off a twangy sound, like a hammer banging against a piano string. The star known as HR 3831 sounds like a cello string being played back and forth. Red Giant Star, Xi Hydrae, sounds like African drumming, and people in night clubs even dance to a recording of it. The amazing cluster of about 90 stars, known as a “Stellar Beehive,” sounds like wind rushing through a tunnel. And our very own sun emits a rumbling sound as its outer layer cooks its interior. The amazingly gifted Ssuuna used his voice and drumbeats and African instruments to mirror the types of sound patterns created by the star pulsations Kolenberg described.
At the end of Kolenberg’s talk, there was a Q & A, where one audience member asked Kolenberg if she thought that human music originated as a result of the music emanating from the stars. Kolenberg replied that she believed human music did originate from the stars, because humans, themselves, originated from the stars: we are all stardust. After the Q & A, Ssuuna invited the audience to participate in creating a collective musical pulsation, handing out drums, bells, and other instruments. As he began drumming out a lively beat, shaking the bells on his legs, and singing in a smooth and harmonious voice, the audience followed the beat with their instruments, clapped, chanted, and raised their arms toward the heavens in joyous celebration of all things celestial and human.Were you there? What do you think of the idea that stars create music?