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Talking Heads

Project Overview

Through a series of intimate live events, short videos and audiocasts, Talking Heads profiles and platforms some of the exceptional ideas that have originated from the African continent, and the people behind them who live, work and innovate in Africa across all spheres of public and private life.

Why We Do It

Looking into the continent, from outside or within, the mainstream messages that continue in large part to define Africa rarely articulate the subtlety and nuance of contemporary Africa and its people. Clichés and negatively held notions about Africa crowd out a balanced understanding of the diversity of everyday existence on the continent. These continuing misperceptions come in part from limited access to the alternative realities and narratives that also exist.

The inaccessibility of knowledge, alternative ideas and the people who create it, not only affect Africa’s identity and image but also have far-reaching consequences that alter the daily choices people make, how access is controlled or denied, when and where opportunities are presented and realised, how social justice is both vetted and meted out and more sweepingly, who gains what rights and privileges.

How We Do It

The Africa Centre has developed a platform that identifies, showcases and creates opportunities for African “Thought Leaders” to be seen and heard. Talking Heads profiles some of the extraordinary Africans making a meaningful and affirmative contribution to their communities, cities, countries, to the continent and the world. Our approach provides a model that can be easily replicated anywhere in Africa and, with scale, may offer an alternative narrative of who and what we know about our continent.

Talking Heads consists of two core components, both intending to service different yet interwoven purposes. These include: live events of intimate conversations and exchange with and between experts; and the production of short videos and audiocasts that explore the ideas that are changing Africa. .

The Talking Heads Live Events use the art of conversation by combining an expert or thought leader with three to four audience members, enabling exchange, engagement and interaction. 
Conversations allow us to share, debate and adapt our thoughts in personal, interactive, multi-dimensional and compelling ways. We remix ideas through spontaneous, unrehearsed collaboration. The advantage of this approach is that it encourages the cross-pollination of ideas, and provides fertile ground for transforming how we perceive and locate our society and ourselves. Further, it promotes the creation of alternative streams of thought; debunks preconceived notions of who and what experts are; promotes the translation of discipline-specific codified language; provides inspiration to collaborate and to create new initiatives; breaks down cultural and interdisciplinary prejudice; and can be a key ingredient in the development of a healthy knowledge economy.

Since 2008, the project has held 10 live events in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The events are designed as a mix of musical chairs and speed dating for the brain, where guests move from table to table engaging in four intimate 20-minute conversations with over 40+ “talking heads” experts in one evening.


Talking Heads Media – There is currently no consistent programming on widely accessible media channels that highlights the ideas of Africa’s thought leaders in interesting ways. The live events offer the benefit of disseminating ideas though conversation, but its format and scale prevent it from reaching broader audiences. To achieve wider access, Talking Heads Media was created to produce short video and audiocasts, which focus on the ideas making a difference in places all over Africa.

New video and audiocasts are released on www.talkingheads.org.za.

With Thanks