September 02, 2012 Author: Cristina De Middel
Zambia 1964. The rather eccentric school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso single-handedly starts a space programme to put the first African on the moon, thereby joining the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. Due to a lack of funding, both by the Zambian Government and the United Nations, and one of the astronauts (a teenage girl!) getting pregnant, the programme came to an early end. It is a lesser known part of African history that has unfortunately been overshadowed by wars, violence and hunger. Half a century later, Spanish photojournalist Cristina de Middel rebuilds this story and adapts it to her personal imagery, containing elephants, colourful spacesuits and beautiful hairdressing. Is De Middel mocking Nkoloso and ridiculing the idea of Africans on the moon? We think not. Instead, the result of this fictional documentation is at once funny, striking and thought-provoking. It hides a very subtle critique of our position and prejudices towards the whole continent.
The Afronauts by Cristina de Middel was featured in the books section of GUP #34, What We Like 2. To learn more about The Afronauts, read our blog post about its unexpected success, our interview with Cristina de Middel, or see our online portfolio of her recent project Made In.