Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Zambia: Postcolonial Sci-Fi

Zambia marked its independence day 2 days ago and over at the Atlantic's tech blog Alexis Madrigal digs up the story and video of a Zambian space program in 1964 spearheaded by a grade-school science teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso. Nkoloso claimed he heads the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy and wanted 7 million pounds from UNESCO to fund his race to beat the Americans and Russians to the moon.

One of the links in Madrigal's post leads to this 1964 Time magazine article about the buzz leading up to Zambia's independence ceremonies, and mentions Nkoloso:
During the independence festivities only one noted Zambian failed to share in all the harmony. He is Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and the director of Zambia's National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy, who claimed the goings-on interfered with his space program to beat the U.S. and the Soviet Union to the moon. Already
Nkoloso is training twelve Zambian astronauts, including a curvaceous 16-year-old girl, by spinning them around a tree in an oil drum and teaching them to walk on their hands, "the only way humans can walk on the moon."
Crackpot or cult leader, you need to click to enlarge the scan of Nkolosi's editorial above and read the beautiful postcolonial sci-fi writing, especially the part where he goes:
...if I had my way, Zambia would be born in the blast of [my] academy's rocket being launched into space.
Not sure anyone will be filing this under lack of funding for scientific research in Africa. And even though we have no clue what Nkolosi was smoking...

...Madrigal writes that Nkoloso is "a reminder of the power that space travel had in the popular imagination of the 1960s." And it wasn't only Zambians infected with by the idea of space travel. We can see how the idea of space travel also captured the imaginations of the neighboring Congolese in DRC in director Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda's "We too Walked on the Moon" -- a beautiful 12 minute short film that gives us a peek into Congolese middle class lives in 1969 amidst the excitement of America's Apollo 11 moon landing.

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