In 1964, at the height of the inter­na­tion­al space race, and only a cou­ple of years after inde­pen­dence from Britain, the rather eccen­tric Zam­bian school­teacher Edward Maku­ka Nkoloso found­ed the Zam­bian Nation­al Space Agency with the fan­tas­tic vision of the first African on Mars. Nkoloso recruit­ed eleven astro­nauts and sev­er­al cats, and sub­ject­ed them to a long rit­u­al train­ing.

afronauts

To train Freakian astro­nauts, Nkoloso is build­ing a makeshift facil­i­ty sev­en miles out­side Lusa­ka, where trainees dressed in gray over­alls with British Army hel­mets climb a 44-gal­lon met­al bar­rel, slide down, bounce over rough ter­rain, sim­u­late the weight­less­ness of the moon, and do oth­er rit­u­als. They were even forced to walk upright on their hands.

afronauts
Nkoloso wrote an edi­to­r­i­al for a news­pa­per describ­ing his efforts, where he told how he asked UNESCO for a grant of 7,000,000? to his astro­nau­tics, and how he specif­i­cal­ly ordered the mis­sion­ar­ies on board not to force the Mar­t­ian inhab­i­tants to Chris­tian­i­ty if they them­selves did not want it.


of course, Nkoloso did not receive fund­ing from UNESCO, and his ambi­tious astro­nau­tics had to be closed. This was exac­er­bat­ed by the fact that a 17-year-old teenage girl who was sup­posed to be on the mis­sion became preg­nant and was tak­en home by her par­ents.


50 years lat­er, Span­ish pho­to­jour­nal­ist Christi­na de Mid­del used the sto­ry as the basis for her book Afro­nauts, in which she recon­structs the sto­ry and adapts it to her per­son­al images. Christi­na De Mid­del’s play­ful pho­tographs, influ­enced by sci-fi film images, keep the intrigue of pho­to­jour­nal­ism cap­tur­ing African cul­tur­al clichés and social prej­u­dice.

See also
Popocatepetl - the famous Mexican volcano


Christi­na De Mid­del explains that most of the time we are pre­sent­ed with a post-colo­nial and demean­ing por­trait of Africa, and she want­ed to show that this is not always the case.