Monday, August 27, 2012

Africans in the '60s - Liberation and Neil Armstrong's Moon Landing

The sad news of Neil Armstrong's passing offers a chance to revisit how much the idea of space travel and race to land a man on the moon also had a powerful hold over the popular imagination of many Africans in the 1960s. One example, of course, is grade-school science teacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso's Zambian space program and its proposed mission to Mars on the eve of Zambian independence in 1964.

Hinted in Alexis Madrigal's blog post about Nkoloso is a sense of the end of liberation struggle, Zambia's independence day celebrations and, perhaps, the same kind of naiveté, optimism and euphoria we've seen frozen and capsuled by photographers like Philippe Koudjina and Malick Sidebe in the black and white pictures they took of Malian youth in that hopeful time.

The same optimism is captured in a different way in the two 5 mins excerpts below from Congolese auteur  Balufu Bakupa-Kanyinda's 2009 short film, We Too Walked on the Moon (Nous aussi avons marché sur la lune), which uses the 1969 American Apollo 11 mission that landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon as the year and the backdrop for an interesting glimpse at middle class Congolese lives -- a teacher, a doctor and an artist.



In the film we get to see each person experience the radio broadcast of the moon landing differently, with the artist (you can see that in the 2nd excerpt) eventually deciding that he must also walk on the moon.



With the news and discussion of a moon landing as a reminder of the technological chasm between Africa and the West, Olivier Barlet's  review over at Africultures, I think, touches the core of Bakupa-Kanyinda's film (Google auto translation + mine):
The film revolves between poems by Aime Cesaire and the Congolese poet Tshiakatumba Mukadi, recited by students under the direction of their teacher.... A slow tracking shot shows various portraits tacked above the blackboard, revealing many major African figures, including Obama, confirming them as sources of inspiration.... For an Africa that suffers from an inferiority complex inherited from the mental integration of its alleged backwardness, the message is simple: be the image of those of you who believed in themselves.
This post is a reworked version of a previous post from July 2nd 2010.  


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