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Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts (detail)

Work / Publication

Photography: Cristina de Middel imagines the forgotton Zambian space project

Did you know that after gaining independence in 1964, Zambia started a space programme to send the first African astronaut to the moon?! Nope, neither did we, which to be fair is not that surprising as a lack of financial resources meant the project was pretty much doomed to failure, becoming no more than a little-known occurrence in the history of the global Space Race.

However, this year photographer Cristina De Middel brought the forgotten episode back to life with her self-published publication The Afronauts. Using the aborted mission as a starting point to create a wondrous fiction, De Middel illustrated the story from her own imagination with beautiful colour photographs that show a joyful and humorous reinterpretation of the celestial endeavour. Fanciful spacesuits, elephant space creatures and a Zambian smiley face flag are sequenced alongside manipulated documents, drawings and reproductions of letters from the mission. The result is a stunning project that defies the traditions of factual documentary to tell a story which both illuminates and mythologises the human desire to conquer the moon.

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Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts

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Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts

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Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts

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Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts

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Cristina De Middel: The Afronauts