December 3, 2012 12:50 PM   Subscribe

In 1964, Zambia joined the Space Race with help from Edward Makuka Nkoloso, an enthusiastic, if overly optimistic, primary school teacher (partial transcript, video very much of its time). Though the rocket never left Lusaka, and there was never any real support from either the Zambian government or UNESCO, Nkoloso's project caught the imagination of Spanish artist Cristina de Middel in her short film, The Afronauts. Middel explains, "The images are beautiful and the story is pleasant at a first level, but it is built on the fact that nobody believes that Africa will ever reach the moon. It hides a very subtle critique to our position towards the whole continent and our prejudices. It's just like saying strong words with a beautiful smile." via.
posted by ChuraChura (8 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by mrnutty at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2012

Actually its the work itself that takes that stance against Africa. I think the general public would have a similar chuckle to the following:

"In 1964, a Scottish school teacher, Edward McKinnock, dreamed of flying to the moon. He urged the Scottish government to establish an Scottish space program that would compete head on with NASA and the Soviets to place astronauts on the moon. Scottish officials listened politely, and then got on with more earthly problems,...."

Or any other number of countries in 1964....
posted by mary8nne at 1:38 PM on December 3, 2012

Scottish officials listened politely, and then got on with more earthly problems,....

Problems which are still here and it some cases, worst.

But landing humans on the moon and returning them safely to Earth? We crossed that sumbitch off our list of things to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:54 PM on December 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

No one believes that I'm capable of getting a space ship to the moon with no government support either. Now I, a white dude, finally know what being the victim of racist expectations feels like.

It hurts.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2012

We choose tae gang tae th' moon in thes decade an' dae th' other things, nae coz they ur easy, but coz they ur stoaner.
posted by hal9k at 1:56 PM on December 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Feels too much like poking fun at the mentally ill. But it did compel me to re-watch the historically impeccable documentary The Old Negro Space Program.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:29 PM on December 3, 2012

Well, there was a 1970 Spanish comedy, with a curiously similar plot, poking fun at Spain's own underdevelopment at the time: El astronauta. So I suspect that Ms. de Middel's intended critique is altogether too subtle.
And yes, more a case of mental illness and delusion than anything else.
posted by Skeptic at 3:00 PM on December 3, 2012

The Zambian "space programme" isn't that strange, considering Zaire had its own private financed space initiative at the time, featuring West German commercial satellite launching pioneers OTRAG.

Short stort: OTRAG wanted to develop and launch commerical rockets for satellite launches, but couldn't do that in Germany due to pesky little WWII era treaties prohibiting German rockets, so they leased a rocket base in Zaire, "the size of Indiana". In the end neither the US nor the USSR was overtly charmed of this initiative, so nothing much was accomplished.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:34 AM on December 4, 2012

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