The Afronauts by Cristina De Middel

Andrea Raby
Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts
At Cloître Saint-Trophime

Walking into the ornate Roman architecture of the Cloître Saint-Trophime, I expected to see some serious, thought provoking exhibit in black and white. I never expected to stumble upon an exhibit as whimsical and eccentric as The Aftonauts.

A newspaper article describing the Zambian space race

A newspaper article describing the Zambian space race

In 1964, during the heat of the space race, Zambia started a space program that planned to put an African on the moon before an American or Russian. However, the United Nations never granted them funding and a 16-year-old astronaut in training got pregnant, so the program fell apart. Cristina De Middel took this idea of a Zambian Space program and translated it into a series of photos that showed what could have happened if the program became a reality.

A collection of images from the exhibit, including a diagram of a Zambian space suit

A collection of images from the exhibit, including a diagram of a Zambian space suit

This exhibit was just fun to explore. De Middel let her imagination go wild with the possibilities of a space program in the heart of Africa, placing men in astronaut helmets next to elephants and tribal villages. She constructed space suits, news stories and even what the astronauts would look like on the moon.

I really enjoyed this exhibit because of the creativity. De Middel combined photos with drawings and cut outs to give the exhibit a dream-like feel. Overall the exhibit both pokes fun at the idea of a space program in the middle of Africa, but it also grabs the idea and runs with it, giving it a chance to finally live out it’s wild dreams of going to the moon. The Zambian program may have fail, but De Middel’s work pushes the boundaries of what we may believe is possible. Though this, she turns regular astronauts into The Afronauts.

A photo within a drawn image of an explosion. My favorite image of the exhibit.

A photo within a drawn image of an explosion. My favorite image of the exhibit.

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