The Greek philosopher Socrates believed that one of the most effective methods of teaching lies in the art of conversation – simply the ability to speak one’s thoughts clearly and, just as much, to be able to listen to others.
This much I knew, but I still had no idea what to expect, and it seemed I wasn’t alone. Dozens of people stood around, sipping wine and nibbling snacks and the room was buzzing with conversational electricity and anticipation.
We were soon quietened by a warm poetry reading and then led to another, larger room in which there were dozens of tables with numbers on them. This was speed dating… but in small groups thirsting for knowledge, not singles searching for love. My first session was with Francois Groepe, the former Managing Director and CEO of Media24, who led a fascinating and enormously informative discussion on the destruction of print media.
By now we were all in the swing of things and, with the occasional break to afford us the time to absorb and share the information we’d just learned, we moved from table to table, lapping up the conversations. Each session lasted 20 minutes and brought random individuals together with one of 48 experts from a multitude of fields. From nuclear physicists to worm evangelists, historians to activists to educational innovators to palm readers… never have I been in a room with such a vast range of knowledge and such an eagerness to share it. A highlight for me was the chance to make the acquaintance of acclaimed choreographer Jay Pather of the National Arts Foundation.
Talking Heads Live is part of a multilayered project (www.africacentre.net/talking-heads) that aims to expand how we see the world through intimate conversation. This interactive event offers an opportunity for Capetonians to engage, discuss, debate, and test their points of view. Curator Robin Jutzen describes the event as “using the art of conversation as a potent way to exchange and build knowledge about the world. Conversation allows us to share, debate and adapt our thoughts in personal, interactive, multi-dimensional and compelling ways; we remix ideas through spontaneous, unrehearsed collaboration.”
For anyone with an interest in… well, anything, this is an amazing opportunity to learn about an array of interesting topics in an open conversation platform while meeting fascinating people – thought leaders and mavericks – one might otherwise never have met. I left inspired and looking forward to the next event.
Faheem abz Abrahams
Talking Heads Live took place at the Cape Town City Hall on 26 November 2011.