We are going to Mars | Suite |

We are going to Mars | Suite |

2021, Second Part / Diaspora

about the piece

In 1960, Edward Mukuka Nkoloso founded the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy. The goal: an African space program of its own to join the “Space Race” between the United States and the Soviet Union. On a remote farm, the “Afronauts” trained on homemade equipment. Together they created a rocket out of sheet metal and wanted to launch it into space on October 24, 1964. The rocket was to be piloted by 17-year-old Matha Mwambwa, the only woman on the team. The attempt to launch an African space program was taken anything but seriously by the international press. But hardly anyone thought of the project as a satirical commentary on the megalomania and absurdity of an imperialist show of strength like the Space Race. Until a video of the training surfaced ten years ago and triggered a change in perspective. To this day, it is not certain whether the project was a serious scientific endeavor, a joke at the expense of the colonial powers, or even a cover for a training camp for independence fighters. Either way, the term Afronauts stands today for a new self-confidence of black people, visible in the videos from the 60s.

Originally planned as a stage play, the company changed the concept and produced video works together with local artists in Uganda and the USA, which set very different accents. The Ugandan contribution, created with choreographer Robert Ssempijja among others, celebrates the spirit of optimism associated with the Space program and locates Mars in its own homeland. In contrast, Mourning [A] BLKstar and Symara Johnson’s We are Going to Mars Suite is a fever dream that opens us up to new fantasies of space travel across formal boundaries.


The second part of the project was created in collaboration with Symara Johnson and dancers from New York. The soundtrack was composed by the musician collective Mourning [A] BLKstar from Cleveland.

The “We’re going to Mars” Suite follows the inner foldings of Symara Johnson’s brain as she begins to delve into a fever dream of space travel. We see what it means for blackness to expand inter-dimensionally, this is a practice for the black mind/body in imagination. A collective body of blackness spanning throughout the east coast of the US takes time to show you where Mars is and opens the door to bring you with. This project is a demonstration of fantasy amidst a formal structure that does not always permit it. Where are we going? Are you coming? Enjoy this film as moment to fall into rest as we see the multiplicity of realities fold and bend, we are traveling into the beyond and perhaps not coming back.



Director: Symara Johnson | Direction and Concept: Symara Johnson and Christoph Winkler | US Executive Producer: Symara Johnson | Assistant Producer: Kalliope Piersol | Director of Photography: Yasmin Josiah  | Costume Director (Brooklyn, NY): Stanley Gambucci Costume Director (Cleveland, OH) | Editor: Yasmin Josiah | Company Production Manager: Laura Biagioni

Music composed and performed by Mourning [A] BLKstar | Vocals: James Longs, Latoya Kent, Kyle Kidd | Drums: Dante Foley | Trumpet: Theresa May | Trombone: William Washington | Guitar/Keys: Pete Saudek | Samplers/Bass: RA Washington

Starring: Symara Johnson | Angel Glasby | Dava Huesca

Songs (in order of use): Epilogue, Indoctrination, Terrain Discovery, We stayin', Celestial Bodies

Super 8mm processed & scanned by NEGATIVEFILMLAND (NY)

A production by Company Christoph Winkler in co-production with SOPHIENSÆLE.
Funded by the Capital Cultural Fund and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.