Scifest celebrates 20th birthday

When Scifest Africa first started 20 years ago, organisers had no idea it would grow into the biggest science extravaganza on the continent.

From humble beginnings in 1996, Scifest Africa – which starts in Grahamstown today – has become an world renowned event that attracts the world’s top scientific brains and pulls crowds of 50000 annually.

Scifest Africa will celebrate 20 years of success in Grahamstown this year.
Scifest Africa will celebrate 20 years of success in Grahamstown this year.

Scifest Africa director Anja Fourie yesterday said nurturing a love of science among youth was vital for growing the country and continent.

“Innovation by Africa for Africa is the key to unlocking solutions to our continent’s socio-economic challenges, and for Africa to become a global competitor in the knowledge society,” she said.

“Our continent needs young, disruptive thinkers who will provide unique insights into these challenges and accelerate innovation.”

Themed “A matter of time”, organisers say this year’s edition will look at creation, depiction, measurement and even the end of time.

Scifest media officer Stephane Meintjies yesterday said some of South Africa’s top scientific minds would attend the event along with experts from Switzerland, India, America, England and Germany.

Tickets are mostly kept at a rock bottom R25 for events, but Meintjies said there were several freebies for cash-strapped science junkies.

These include sunset shows, science picnics in the park, a journey to the stars, the science olympics, Rhodes University high school quizzes, Scikids and even a paper plane making competition.

Established by the Grahamstown Foundation in 1996 to promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science, technology and innovation in South Africa, Scifest has so far inspired a generation of young local scientists.

From archaeological discoveries by National Geographic emerging explorer Dr Sarah Parcak of Yemen, to the Bloodhound Supersonic Car’s attempt at breaking the world land speed record in South Africa, the fest has something for everyone.

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has returned this year.

Visitors can travel back in time with chief technologist, Jim Adams, to learn about the latest space technologies that benefit life on Earth, or participate in a workshop with visual strategist Dan Goods, to see how he turns Nasa’s scientific data into art.

Meintjies said Scifest favourites of the last 20 years from across the globe, including Australia’s MadLab, France’s Planète Sciences, Germany’s Die Physikanten, and the UK’s Science Made Simple are back.

“The festival promises fun for everyone, ages five to 105, including a science picnic in the park, mathematics sleepover, science cafe, laser show, speed date a scientist (or even a Nasa astronaut) and a star party.”

Meintjies said an electronic programme was available at and tickets could be obtained from —


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