It seems a little absurd to introduce a book which is so well known. When released in 2012, this self published book sold out in less than two months. Inspirational, magnificently creative and brilliantly simple, “Afronauts” is to me one of those books which I desperately want.
I first came upon this book while researching for one of my projects. Photographed by Christina De Middel, the book develops from a little known story about the Zambian space program. Christina who comes from a strong photojournalistic background, decided to take this story and develop her own ideas around it. The result is a wonderful body of work which consists of images, illustrations and collages.
Zambia 1964, the rather eccentric school teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso single-handedly started a space program to put the first African on the moon, thereby joining the space race between the Sovjet Union and the United States. Due to a lack of funding, both by the Zambian Government and the United Nations, and because one of the astronauts, a teenage girl, became pregnant, the short-lived program came to an early end. It is a lesser known part of the African history which unfortunately mostly has been dominated by wars, violence and hunger. Half a century later Spanish photojournalist Christina de Middel used this story as the basis for her book Afronauts in which she rebuilds the story and adapts it to her personal imagery (source Amazon)
I wish I could tell you about the make of the book and how it feels to actually read through a physical copy but this book is really difficult to find and if you do find a copy, its usually too expensive to buy. But as I really wanted to read the book, I wrote to Christina and she actually sent me a complete pdf copy! (Thank you again to her being so totally amazing).
88 Pages thick, Afronauts is constructed on the delicate balance of myth, fact and fiction. The book has been designed to feel like a research file including articles, notes and images put together. A really impressive part about the project is also how Christina doesn’t betray the subject with imposed design ideas or disbelief but builds on their aspirations and dreams.
What sets this work apart from others is the very humility of Christina’s work. When you look at Afronauts, its funny, witty and infinitely brilliant. But what lies undearneath is a non-judgemental idea of faith and understanding. Afronauts is presented as a playful surrealistic book but it also challenges our ideas and perception of the African nations.
So if you ever find a copy of this book, buy it without a single thought, its going to become one of the most prized books in your collection. There was a really well directed AV project also about the same project on Vimeo but I think its been removed. Anyway, if you like Christina’s work, have a look at her website. She was also nominated for the Deutsche Börse award for the same work, so you can find her interview below.
On the same note, if you’re in India or nearby, you’ll be happy to know that Emaho Magazine is holding a book making workshop with Christina & fellow artist Riccardo Cases.
The workshops will be held in Mussoorie from 19th to 22nd June, 2014, as a joint project of EMAHO Magazine and the IED Madrid. For more information, please visit Emaho Magazine website.
Also, if you apply now, you can avail a 7,000 INR discount. There are only a few limited seats left so if you’re interested, buzz Emaho asap!