The Afronauts – Cristina de Middel

In 1964, still leaving the dream of their recently gained independence, Zambia started a space program that would put the first African on the moon catching up the USA and the Soviet Union in the space race.

Only a few optimists supported the project by Edward Makuka, the school teacher in charge of presenting the ambicious program and getting its necessary funding. But the financial aid never came, as the United Nations declined their support, and one of the astronauts , a 16 year old girl, got pregnant and had to quit.

That is how the heroic initiative turned into an exotic episode of African history, surrounded by wars, violence, droughts and hunger.

En 1964, con la euforia por le recién ganada independencia aún fresca, Zambia lanzó su primer programa espacial. Su objetivo era mandar doce astronautas y diez gatos a la luna, superando así el reto que exhibían Estados Unidos y la Unión Soviética en plena carrera espacial.

Pocas personas apoyaron entonces la ambiciosa iniciativa de Edward Makuka, un profesor de secundaria zambiano que estaba al mando del proyecto y que se encargó de difundirlo y buscar financiación sin demasiado éxito.

Como anécdota la iniciativa constituye un detalle exótico y tierno dentro de la sangrienta historia africana pero también un ejemplo de la grandeza del ser humano y su capacidad de superación.

Como fotoperiodista siempre he tratado de ofrecer una visión excéntrica de la actualidad y por “excéntrica” entiendo, alejada de los canales y las formas asumidas. Así pues mi discurso dentro de la documentación se ha centrado siempre en pequeñas historias cuya reflexión puede ser válida en contextos mucho más trascendentes y documentados.

Cristina de Middel's Jambo from the series The Afronauts, 2012


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Steve Pyke – Moonbug

Been listening to Kode9 & the Spaceape’s recent live set at The Boiler Room and a familiar but unexpected something floated through the speakers….”Whose lyrics are those, and what is that melody? Oh shit, that’s  The The!”  I had two of their albums on repeat last week.  So that lead me in turn to check on what is happening in The The world.  The answer, writing the score for the film ‘Moonbug’, centered around a project of photographer Steve Pyke

I first met Steve Pyke on-board a flight  to Beirut with the band Les Negresses Vertes, I their press officer he and was a music press photographer for the NME, covering their concert in the city that was just waking to a new dawn after eighteen years of war.

Now based in the US, Steve caught the ‘Moonbug’,  setting out on a journey across States in his search to meet and photograph the Apollo space pioneers. A journey in which he was to meet the adventurers, risk takers and dreamers who were behind one of the most historic endeavours of our time.

From living rooms, and moonscape deserts, to Cape Canaveral, Steve captures these men in frank, revealing portraits, while unravelling their very personal and divergent memories.

Documented by filmmaker Nichola Bruce with rare archive footage and an original score by Matt Johnson, Moonbug is both a photographic road trip and an exploration of how photographs become signposts for history.

Moonbug Trailer from moonbug the film on Vimeo.