We are going to Mars | Suite |

We are going to Mars | Suite |

2021, Second Part / Diaspora

about the piece

The project takes as its starting point the history of the first African space program in Zambia and examines how the reception of this story has changed over the last fifty years. Moreover it builds a bridge to the work of the African-American musician Sun Ra who developed in the same historical period his Credo “Space is the place”.
The company is therefore working with artists from Africa and the U.S.A. to represent both perspectives on the event, the local one and the one of the diaspora.


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.

The Story

In 1960, Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, a teacher and ex-revolutionary, founded the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy.
The primary goal of this academy was to start an own African space program to reach the moon and Mars and thus enter the “Space Race” between the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union.
On a remote farm, he trained with his “Afronauts”, who all also played in the band “The Dynamite Rock Music Group” with self-made equipment.
For example, they simulated weightlessness by jumping off the highest point of a swing or rolling down a hill in an oil drum.
They learned to walk on their hands because, in their opinion, that was the only way to get around on Mars.
Together they built a rocket, the D-Kalu 1, and hoped to launch it into space on 24 October 1964, the day of Zambian independence.
The rocket was to be piloted by 17-year-old Matha Mwambwa, the only woman in the team.
In addition, two cats and Cyclops, Nkoloso’s dog, were supposed to be launched into space.
After the Zambian government refused his request, Nkoloso asked UNESCO for a grant of seven million Zambian pounds, which they also denied.
Due to the lack of money and the pregnancy of Matha Mwambwa, the program ended in 1969 without the hoped-for success.
Two of my best men went on a drinking spree a month ago and haven’t been seen since . . . Another of my astronauts has joined a local tribal song and dance group.”
Surprisingly, forty years later appears an excerpt of a short interview with E. Nkoloso by the Reuter Agency.
In it, we see a smiling Nkoloso wearing a steel helmet and a silk cape, giving information about his programme while the commentator expresses his disdain for the project with typical colonial attitude. From this moment on, perceptions begin to change: “Some people think I’m crazy, but I’ll be laughing the day I plant Zambia’s flag on the moon.”


By und with: Symara Johnson, Angel Glasby, Dava Huesca | Music: Mourning [A] BLKstar | Director: Symara Johnson | DoP: Yasmin JosiahAssistant Producer: Kalliope PiersolCostumes: Stanley Gambucci

Concept: Christoph Winkler | Production manager: Laura Biagioni 

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.