Fictional photos recall forgotten Zambian space program

Fictional photos recall forgotten Zambian space program

“Half a century ago, with the space race in full swing, the heated quest for interplanetary exploration between the Earth’s superpowers gained a new, self-proclaimed, contender.

“We’re going to Mars!” audaciously declared Zambian schoolteacher Edward Makuka Nkoloso in a 1964 newspaper op-ed, revealing to the world his fanciful plans for his country to beat the United States and the Soviet Union in their fierce battle to conquer outer space.

“Our rocket crew is ready,” continued Nkoloso, explaining that his aspiring troupe of space explorers had been gearing up for their interstellar journey in the headquarters of the academy he’d set up on the outskirts of Zambian capital Lusaka.

The newspaper op-ed by Edward Makuka Nkoloso (pictured at the front).

From within what he called the “Academy of Sciences and Space Technology,” Nkoloso said, he’d been studying Mars through telescopes. He’d also been training his would-be astronauts by rolling them down a hill in oil drums, a technique aimed at getting his team acclimatized to the weightlessness experienced during space travel.

Read this: Nigerian doctor takes to the skies

“Specially trained spacegirl Matha Mwambwa, two cats (also specially trained) and a missionary will be launched in our first rocket,” wrote Nkoloso, a grade-school science teacher and self-appointed director of the space academy.

Unsurprisingly, the program, which was never taken seriously by the government of the newly independent Zambia, failed to take off; a $7 million grant Nkoloso said he’d requested from UNESCO never came, whilst the pregnancy of the 17-year-old spacegirl brought the proceedings to an end.

“The Afronauts”

Fast forward to 2010, when Spanish photographer Cristina De Middel was searching for “unbelievable stories” for a new personal project she was hoping to develop.

Whilst scouring the depths of the internet, she stumbled on a website listing the 10 craziest experiments in history.

The Afronauts — JAMBO.

“The first one on the list was the Zambia space program,” says De Middel who, after a decade of working as a news photojournalist, had decided to embark on a new career as a visual storyteller.

Fascinated by Nkoloso’s visionary and dreamy perspective on life, De Middel set about creating an imaginary documentation of his elusive endeavors some 50 years ago.

I think that’s the greatest characteristic we have as humans, that we can dream of becoming big.
Cristina De Middel, Afronauts creator

The result is “The Afronauts,” an arresting photo book that has been shortlisted for this year’s esteemedDeutsche Börse Photography Prize.

In the self-published book, De Middel self-consciously conjures up the story of the unofficial space program piece by piece. She uses a series of cinematographic images, including staged depictions of discarded oil barrels, makeshift spaceships, elephant-hugging spacemen and flying cats, as well as vintage-looking maps, documents and newspapers cuttings.

Throughout, facts and fiction are intertwined as part of an intriguing narrative which challenges viewers’ perceptions about what’s real and what’s not.

“I was working in a very free way,” says De Middel, sitting at the café of the Photographer’s Gallery in London, where The Afronauts is being exhibited.

“I needed to add mystery; I needed to add this fascination for great things and work on the photographic language that would not state if it’s true,” adds De Middel, encouraging viewers to question the documentary value of photography. “Otherwise, I would have ruined the game.”

“Big dreams”

Whilst playful, De Middel’s dream-like images are not intended to make fun of Nkoloso’s fantastical, yet high-flying, ambitions.

Her speculative pictures exude a feeling of nostalgia and sympathy, celebrating the audacious and naive spirit of a past era where grandiose dreams were not limited by circumstances.

The Afronauts — BOTONGURU.

“I think that’s the greatest characteristic we have as humans, that we can dream of becoming big,” says De Middel.

Read this: Artist’s spectacular glasses

“That is something common to all humanity,” she adds. “You don’t have to be American and work for NASA to dream of going to the moon; you can be an African — he [Nkoloso] was a school teacher and thought that could be done.”

He had a fascination for the universe that we all share.
Cristina De Middel, Afronauts creator

“Honest approach”

Creating The Afronauts, which was sold out in just a few months, De Middel worked more as a movie director, trying to make the best of the resources around her. For models, she relied on social media and friends; for the astronauts’ helmets, she used old domes of street lights; and for the flashy spacesuits, she employed the sewing talents of her grandmother.

“It was like a short, small and very modest movie production,” says De Middel. “But instead of producing a moving image, I just did stills.”

The Afronauts — BONGO.

Most of the images were shot in between different projects, in locations such as Spain, the Palestinian territories, Italy and Romania. Others were repurposed pictures from the photographer’s archive.

De Middel, who’s never been to Zambia, acknowledges she’s not “an expert in Africa” — nor in space. This led her to go about the story with caution.

“I always kept in my mind that I don’t know a lot about African history and I am approaching a subject that can be sensitive or can be offensive for some people,” says De Middel.

So far, she says, her work has received a great response from people in Africa. She’s been contacted by Nigeria’s space program and been invited to the continent to give talks, while her book is being shown in South Africa and Senegal.

The Afronauts — IFULEGI.

“I would love to [take the exhibition to Lusaka as well],” she says.

If anything, De Middel says, the extraordinary tale of the forgotten Zambian space program presented a chance to talk about Africa from a different perspective.

“The only honest approach I could do to that story was documenting my cliché, and that’s what I really wanted to do, because, in a way, I was raising awareness of the existence of that cliché and what we expect from Africa,” she says.

Read this: Zambia’s amazing street acrobats

“Not only because the story is positive, in terms of African people having dreams, but also evidencing what we expect from Africa in terms of aesthetics and behavior.”

Today, nobody seems to know what happened to Nkoloso or his cast of wannabe space explorers. Yet Nkoloso’s desire to dream the impossible has found a new, alternative, home inside De Middel’s images, striking a chord with captivated audiences around the world.

“He had a fascination for the universe that we all share,” says De Middel. “Asking if we’re alone, looking at the stars, making metaphysical questions. That is a universal feeling and it doesn’t belong to the people who can actually have the technology to go to the moon; it’s everywhere.””


Little Known Black History Fact: Sapelo Island

Originally posted on Black America Web:

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The Gullah-Geechee people of Sapelo Island are in a battle for the land of their ancestors. The local government for the area near Savannah, Georgia is requesting nearly a 600% increase in property taxes. Sapelo Island is the final community left of the Gullah-Geechee people in the United States. With the new land values placed on Sapelo, taxes have gone from $600 to $2,300 for one resident. This is a significant increase for a population that is limited by mainland work that must end by the last ferry ride at 5 p.m.

According to the state of Georgia, the properties have been deeply undervalued and have to be assessed at the right level. There are also requests for vacation homes on the island. The state owns nearly all of the land, with the exception of a small section called Hog Hammock where the residents live. There…

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2 Investigators: Walgreens Posting Expired Sales Tags

Originally posted on CBS Chicago:

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(CBS) – Walgreens’ weekly sales promote low prices,  but can you be sure that you’ll get the sale price when you head to the check-out?

2 Investigator Pam Zekman went shopping to find out.

There were dozens of make-up accessories on sale at one location. They looked like a great deal. But, the sale prices were expired.

Like make-up brushes. The sales promotion says buy one, get one 50 percent off. That would be $8.71 for the second brush. But we were charged full price $11.98.

The same thing happened with moisturizing cream. The sale sign says $8.99, but we were charged $11.49.

In all, we found 46 expired sales tags in just one section.

“There’s a lot of old people shopping here,” says John Sorgatz, a regular at the Uptown Walgreens location. “You’re not going to read the fine print that it’s expired. It’s…

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42 Principles of Maat 2000 years before Ten Commandments

Originally posted on Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff):

The Ten Commandments, eight of them at least, were taken from the Egyptian Principles of Ma’at written at least 2000 years earlier.

180px-maatsvg.png Written at least 2,000 years before the Ten Commandments of Moses, the 42 Principles of Ma’at are one of Africa’s, and the world’s, oldest sources of moral and spiritual instruction. Ma’at, the Ancient Egyptian divine Principle of Truth, Justice, and Righteousness, is the foundation of natural and social order and unity. Ancient Africans developed a humane system of thought and conduct which has been recorded in volumes of African wisdom literature, such as, these declarations from the Book of Coming Forth By Day (the so-called Book of the Dead), The Teachings of Ptah-Hotep, the writings of Ani, Amenemope, Merikare, and others.

One aspect of ancient Egyptian funerary literature which often is mistaken for a codified ethic of Ma’at is Chapter 125 of the Book of the Dead

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Mass Protests in Haiti: “Time for Haitians to Stop Taking Orders From Colonists”

Mass Protests in Haiti: “Time for Haitians to Stop Taking Orders From Colonists”

On Sep. 30, the 22nd anniversary of the 1991 coup d’état against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, tens of thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of Port-au-Prince and Cap Haïtien to demand two things: “Martelly must go! MINUSTAH must go!”

Knowing this agenda, the day before over 100 delegates representing about two dozen different popular organizations from all of Haiti’s ten departments gathered at the Fany Villa Reception Center in Port-au-Prince to reflect on and debate a proposal on how to form a provisional government which could lead the country to free, fair, and sovereign elections after Martelly’s departure from power, which all of the delegates felt would be coming in the days ahead, one way or another.

The proposal was made by the Kòwòdinasyon Desalin or Dessalines Coordination (KOD), a new formation headed by several prominent veterans of Haiti’s democratic struggle over the past 25 years.

“We are sure that the U.S. Embassy has made its plans for what to do after the Haitian people have chased Martelly and [Prime Minister Laurent] Lamothe from power,” said one KOD leader, Yves Pierre-Louis, who is also Haïti Liberté’s Port-au Prince Bureau Chief. “The Haitian people also have to work out their plans so that Washington, Paris, and Ottawa don’t simply impose another puppet on Haiti, as they have done so often over the past two decades.”

The essence of KOD’s proposal is the formation of a 13 member Council of State which would lead the country with a judge drawn from Haiti’s Supreme Court. The Council of State’s members would be drawn from key sectors of Haitian society: peasant organizations, popular organizations, political parties, non-aligned parties, women’s organizations, unions, the business sector, vodou, Protestant, and Catholic sectors, students, young people, and civil society.

“The Council of State would sit down with the Supreme Court judge to find a democratic formula to name a government,” the KOD proposal reads. “That government would put in place a democratic Provisional Electoral Council which would hold a general election in the country for all the empty posts in a time frame of no more than six months.”

KOD proposed that Haiti should accept no international financing for those elections which comes with any strings attached. “We would not refuse” any solidarity offered from foreign nations, “but they cannot meddle in Haiti’s internal affairs,” the proposal reads. “They can give their support, but without any conditions.”

In the same vein, the proposal calls on the 9,000 occupation troops of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINUSTAH) to leave the country immediately. “The last MINUSTAH soldier should leave the country no later than May 2014, just as [a Haitian] Senate resolution [passed in May] demands,” said the proposal.

KOD works with a host of popular organizations which were also instrumental in organizing the Popular Forum such as the National Movement for Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity of Haitians (MOLEGHAF), the Patriotic Force for Respect of the Constitution (FOPARK), the National Popular Platform (PNP), the Movement for the Survival of Haitian Society (MOSSOH), the Organization of Young Progressives of Avenue Pouplar (OJPAP), Organization for National Progress (OPNA), the Great Space Reflection for Social Integration (GERES), the Awakened Militants for Another Haiti (MRH), and the Popular Assembly for Change in La Saline (RPCS).

Many organizations from Haiti’s provinces also sent delegates to the Forum, including groups like the Organization of Young Patriots for the Development of Baradères (OPDB), the League of Progressive Youth from Grande Rivière du Nord, Pòt la from the Artibonite, and the Revolutionary Movement for the Development of the North West (MRDNO), and OPDSIC from the Grande Anse.

There were also international delegates who attended from the Guadeloupe Haiti Tour Committee and the International Support Haiti Network in the United States, and from the Travayè e Péyizan (Workers and Peasants) organization in Guadeloupe. Messages of solidarity were also sent from unions and parties in Brazil and Argentina.

The meeting was chaired by two other KOD leaders, Oxygène David and Pierre Michaël, who kept the speeches moving at an efficient clip. FOPARK’s Biwon Odigé, whose organization initiated the call for a massive march on Sep. 30, also shared the podium.

“Overall, the delegates welcomed and received well KOD’s proposal which was presented at the beginning of the day,” said another KOD leader, Mario Joseph, one of Haiti’s most prominent human rights lawyers, at an Oct. 1 press conference at the Office of International Lawyers (BAI). “The delegates divided themselves into eight workshops which met for almost two hours to analyze the proposal. Afterwards, each workshop presented a summary of the delegates’ reflections on how to reinforce and enrich the proposal. In the days ahead, a committee of synthesis will review the reports of each workshop to draw up a final resolution. All popular organizations who approve the final resolution can sign it, even if there are some who were not able to participate in the Sep. 29 Popular Forum.”

Lawyer André Michel, who has been severely persecuted for bringing a corruption lawsuit against the Martelly government, also attended the Forum, as did outspoken Sen. Moïse Jean-Charles, who electrified the room with his address.

“Today we will try, even if we have only a little time, to bring a little light to the battle we are leading as political militants,” said Sen. Moïse. “We are clear about it: the international community has an agenda for Haiti. In 1990, we disrupted their plans and elected our own government. Seven months later, they carried out a bloody coup d’état. Since then, it is they who have imposed what they want in Haiti. This cannot continue. They imposed President Martelly on us. They imposed Laurent Lamothe on us…. It is we, the Haitian people, who have to take our destiny in hand. And that is what we are beginning to do here today.”

In concluding its proposal, KOD wrote that the Martelly administration along with the embassies of Washington, Paris, and Ottawa “will say that what we propose is not legal, is not acceptable…. But when the imperialists make a coup or an illegal election, even when the people reject it, they don’t care… What we propose is more democratic, more authentic, more honest and more sovereign than any of the maneuvers the imperialists have carried out in Haiti. It is time for the Haitian people to stop taking orders from the colonists. We have to construct our own democracy, because we are a nation, not a colony. We are our own masters.””





Raspberry seeds contain antioxidant-like phytonutrients including ellagitannins and anthocyanins that may help fight cancer, viruses, inflammation and a number of other conditions. Antioxidants scavenge and destroy cell-damaging substances, called free radicals, that can occur naturally in the body or from exposure to environmental toxins. Although ellagitannins exist in most berries, raspberries contain the highest levels, according to immunology specialist Dr. Susan Thorpe-Vargas. Anthocyanins, also found in many berries, help provide some of the color pigment in plants and fruits.


High amounts of the ellagitannins in raspberry seeds may help fight bacteria and viruses. The coiled structure of DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, in bacteria must untwist itself to replicate and spread throughout the body. This process requires an enzyme called gyrase. Ellagitannins may inhibit this enzyme and halt bacterial spread to prevent illness. This antioxidant also may prohibit the action of another enzyme involved in the proliferation of viruses. Unlike bacteria, viruses cannot replicate and must “hijack” and insert their DNA into a host cell. Ellagitannins stop an enzyme, called integrase, from enabling this process, according to Thorpe-Vargas.


Cancer involves the uncontrolled growth, or division, of cells. The ellagitannins in raspberry seeds may help prevent the proliferation of cancer cells by ridding the body of toxins and promoting normal cell growth and division. The liver produces enzymes that break down toxic substances into products, called metabolites, that the body can more easily excrete. Metabolites may damage the body more than the original toxins, and ellagitannins appear to safeguard the liver from these dangerous products, says Thorpe-Vargas. Genes also potentially play a role in the development of cancer. For instance, a mutation in the tumor suppression gene, which controls cell division, can lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Ellagitannins reportedly can prohibit deviations in gene mutations to help prevent cancer.


The antioxidants in raspberry seeds may lower levels of cholesterol to promote the health of blood vessels and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Medical doctor Ray Sahelian cites a study published in the July 2009 edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which observed the effects of anthocyanins on 120 subjects with high cholesterol. Participants, aged 40 to 65, received either 160 mg of anthocyanins or a placebo twice daily for a period of 12 weeks. Subjects receiving anthocyanins exhibited lower levels of dangerous low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, and improved overall cholesterol levels.

Man Impersonating Cop Robs Third Person On South Side

Originally posted on CBS Chicago:

CHICAGO (STMW) — A man calling himself “Officer Franklin” and posing as a federal agent to rob people on the South Side struck again Saturday night, marking the third robbery in the past two weeks.

The suspect was driving a SUV when he identified himself as a federal agent who was conducting a homicide investigation and ordered a 41-year-old man into his vehicle about 11 a.m. in the 7000 block of South Justine Street, police News Affairs Officer John Mirabelli said.

After the impersonator raised his voice and again ordered the man to get inside the vehicle, the victim complied, Mirabelli said.

The suspect then drove to the 8000 block of South Oakley Avenue and told the man to empty his pockets, Mirabelli said.

The impersonator then stole the man’s cash, told him to get out of the SUV and drove away, Mirabelli said.

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Angry drivers, both licensed to carry concealed weapons, shoot each other

Originally posted on FOX31 Denver:

IONIA, Mich. — Two armed Michigan drivers died after they apparently “stood their ground” against each other Wednesday.

Police are investigating the shooting on the M-66 highway as a road rage incident, WZZM reported.

Witnesses told the station that one man was following another man’s car too closely. After some hostilities, the first driver pulled into a car wash parking lot and the other driver parked near him.

The driver of the following car drew a gun, prompting the other man to do the same. They both opened fire, killing each other. The driver of the following car appeared to have fired first, police said.

Authorities say both men, ages 43 and 56, were licensed to carry concealed weapons.

People at a nearby laundromat found both men laying on the ground and performed CPR, but were unsuccessful in keeping them alive.

Read the full story at

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New species of legless lizard discovered near Los Angeles airport

Originally posted on FOX31 Denver:

LOS ANGELES — They live at the end of a runway at one of the nation’s busiest airports, and only now has anyone cared to identify them and even give them a name.

They are yellow-bellied legless lizards, and their species name is A. stebbinsi, after 98-year-old herpetologist Robert C. Stebbins. Their home is in the dunes west of Los Angeles International Airport.

Stebbins’ namesakes, which look like snakes, were discovered and identified by Theodore Papenfuss, a herpetologist with the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, and James Parham of California State University, Fullerton.

The pair also reported finding three other new species of legless lizards, all from California, in research published this week in the journal Breviora from the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University.

The other legless lizards were found among oil derricks in the San Joaquin Valley, on the edge of the…

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