Cristina De Middel

Cristina De Middel

The Afronauts

curated by Ilaria Campioli

times and locations

Chiostri di San Pietro
via Emilia San Pietro, 44/c
42121 Reggio Emilia

friday 3rd may open from 6.30 pm to midnight; saturday 4th and sunday 5th may from 10 am to midnight; from 6th may to 16th june open on friday from 7 pm to 11 pm; saturday from 10 am to 11 pm, sunday from 10 am to 9 pm


In 1964 Edward Makuka Nkoloso, science teacher in Zambia, founded the first – unofficial and unauthorized – space program of his country. The declared aim is to overtake the United States and the Soviet Union in the race to conquer space, by landing first on the Moon and then on Mars.
With The Afronauts, Spanish photographer Cristina De Middel reconstructs the adventure of Makuka Nkoloso’s space program through the shots that are situated midway between reality and fiction. The realization of the photographic project was developed at the same time as the conception and subsequent publication of the book The Afronauts.
De Middel was born in 1975, with The Afronauts she reflects on the relationship between reality and fiction and on the way in which images are “consumed”. On a first reading, the images are fascinating and the story is pleasant, but it is based on the fact that no one really believes that Africa will ever travel to outer space. Concealed here, then, is a subtle critique concerning our position toward the African continent. “We are often given an impression of Africa that is post-colonial and condescending,” explains Cristina De Middel herself. “I wanted to show that, although at times we do not share the same level of technological progress, we do however share the same dreams”.
Edward Makuka Nkoloso’s ambition, totally incredible but at the same time tender and fragile, is relived in a fantastic place thanks to De Middel’s pictures. The author is able to transmit the spirit that enlivened Makuka Nkoloso’s enterprise, encompassing that streak of nostalgia towards “impossible” desires. The photographs were realized by the author in Alicante, her city of birth, in the suburbs of Madrid, in Senegal and on the Dead Sea. The atmosphere is reminiscent of the 1960s sci-fi B-movies. Even her way of working recalls that of budget cinema productions: the costumes, the casting and the locations were chosen with the sole purpose of being able to tell a story and make it accessible to the public.
Cristina De Middel’s “Afronauts” belongs to this fantastic blend between reality and fiction, strange creatures that move lightly, wearing brightly colored space suits protected by helmets that look like large soap bubbles, embracing elephants and daydreaming.
Ilaria Campioli

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Cristina De Middel (Spain, 1975) is a photojournalist based in London that has been working for different newspapers in Spain and with NGO´s such as Doctors Without Borders or the Spanish Red Cross for more than 8 years. She combines her strictly documentary assignments, which has been exhibited and awarded in several occasions (including Sony World Photography Awards and PhotoFolio Arles 2012 and the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize), with more personal projects. This B-side of Cristina´s work deliberately asks the audience to question the language and the veracity of photography as a document and plays with reconstructions or archetypes that blur the border between reality and fiction.