The Afronauts on Mars is a collaboration between Selly Raby Kane and Spanish photographer Cristina De Middle. 


“A few months back, as I was developing the calendar for Festival Interférence, I stumbled upon the fabulous story of the “Afronauts” Zambia Space Programme from the1960s, elaborated by a schoolteacher. At the time that I was discovering these strange dreamers who hoped to conquer the cosmos, Cristina de Middel was totally unknown to me. The sense of puzzlement that I was left with, perplexing and thought-provoking, a subtle invitation to shake up preconceived ideas, is exactly what the collective “Les Petites Pierres”, with which I work, strives to share through our projects. And this year, the festival’s theme was already fixed; the future, science-fiction, made-in-Africa…evidently, there isno such thing as chance…an invisible yet clear thread was already appearing between Cristina de Middel and Les Petites Pierres.
I’m a Parisian with Egyptian roots, and moved to Dakar just over 10 years ago. I’m one of the co-founders of Les Petites Pierres, an association that brings together artists and activists who subscribe to a multi-disciplinary approach, one that aims to promote and renew artistic practices in Senegal.
The idea came to us very early on to involve Selly Raby Kane, a fashion designer and member of the collective since 2009. Young, talented and offbeat, Selly is symbolic of her generation; Generation Y, Africa’s future, Africa 3.0. SRK is a UFO in the Senegalese fashion world. Whilst her peers excel in glamour and elegance, the brazen designer is a high priestess of Style. And as if by chance (if such a thing exists), this year Selly has been obsessed with Afro-futurism. Having designed the costumes for the “African Spacecraft” opera, she was at this point preparing her next show, the theme of which is “Alien Cartoon”.
On the other side of the planet, the Spanish-born London-based photographer Cristina de Middel was about to launch her new African sci-fi project into the photographic stratosphere: “The Afronauts”. Inspired by the space race of the 60s, and the crazy story of the Zambian school teacher, she wanted to ask us all the question: “What do we know about Africa, besides mutilated child soldiers, sunsets and safaris?” She incites us to challenge our own stereotypes, all the while exploring a fantastical adventure. In this vein, she joined the Dakar collective in order to solve the following equation: Afronauts x Alien Cartoon@Festival Interférence = X
The next lines of the story were in all likelihood already written in the stars; a bubble machine discovered in a desolate former industrial area, an old mixing table, the arm of a robot used during the previous festival, and a collectionof random objects found in the markets of Dakar…these became the necessary devices for a new Afronauts expedition: Mission to Mars!

Written by Maya Varichon.