Space Is the Place: Aude Christel Mgba in conversation with Amal Alhaag and Simnikiwe Buhlungu

29/04 2021 AT 7 PM CET

Zoom link 
This lecture is hosted via Zoom platform and will be livestreamed on WHW Akademija’s Facebook page.

This conversation is hosted via the Zoom platform and will be livestreamed on WHW Akademija’s Facebook page.

As part of the public program series Evenings with WHW Akademija, we are hosting an online gathering that explores the potential relation between dreaming and knowledge production. 

The moderator for this event is Aude Christel Mgba, who is a member of the professorial team for the third edition of WHW Akademija, with the participation of curator Amal Alhaag and artist Simnikiwe Buhlungu, who will each engage with the theme from different viewpoints.

Can a dream have the potency to produce knowledge? 

During the Cold War — as the world’s attention was riveted on who would be the first to realize the impossible dream of setting foot in space, the US or the USSR — one person in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) decided to join the space race for himself. Edward Mukuka Nkoloso, today known as the Afronaut, an “ordinary” villager, founded the Zambia National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy in 1960, with the motto “Where fate and human glory lead, we are always here.” News of the academy quickly reached the international public and aroused curiosity. Foreign journalists traveled to document Mukuka Nkoloso’s mission, and their subsequent television reports portrayed a ridiculous project. Mukua Nkoloso was described to the public as a lunatic and “Zambia’s village idiot.” 

Later on, in 1974, Space Is the Place, a science fiction film by John Coney, was released. The film, written by Joshua Smith and jazz musician Sun Ra, features Sun Ra in a lead role alongside his band, Arkestra. Realised in 1972, Space Is the Place recounts the multiple landings of Ra on Earth from his spaceship and his attempts to spread word of his plans to young African Americans, to recruit them to move to another planet: “I came from a dream that the black man dreamed long ago. I am actually a present sent away by your ancestors.” 

The narrative is directed and influenced by the outcome of a card game between Ra and the Overseer, a pimp overlord, around the fate of the Black race. 

It’s hard not to link these two successive events—the founding of Mukuka Nkoloso’s academy and the making of Space Is the Place—which happened in different geographies but are similarly very symbolic in similar ways, as both could be intended as visions or, to use the Greek word, as apokálypsis: a disclosure or revelation of great knowledge. 

Amal Alhaag is an Amsterdam-based curator, researcher, and co-facilitator of several initiatives, including Metro54, a platform for experimental sonic, dialogic, and visual culture, and the Side Room (2013–16), a place for eccentric practices and for people to come together, which she established with dear friend and artist Maria Guggenbichler. Alhaag develops ongoing experimental and collaborative research, public programs, and projects on global spatial politics, archives, colonialism, countercultures, oral histories, and popular culture. Her projects and collaborations with individuals, collectives, initiatives, and institutions invite, stage, question, and play with “uncomfortable” issues that riddle, rewrite, remix, share, and compose narratives in impermanent settings. Alhaag is currently part of the curatorial team of the quadrennial sonsbeek20–24, Arnhem, Netherlands; Senior Researcher and Public Programmer at the Research Center for Material Culture, Leiden, Netherlands; and Curatorial and Research Fellow at Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Doha, Qatar.

Simnikiwe Buhlungu is an artist from Johannesburg, South Africa, Recent projects include Bergen Assembly 2019: Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead in Norway and Collective Intimacies – Notes to Self: Intimate 1 (2019), a mural project at the Showroom, London. She obtained her BA (Fine Arts) degree from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (2017) and is currently based at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam (2020–22). Interested in knowledge production, how it is produced and by whom, its dissemination, and its nuances as an ecology, Buhlungu uses her practices to wrestle with these questions and their inexhaustible potential answers. Lately, she enjoys listening to gospel music and has been thinking about combo organs.

Aude Christel Mgba is an independent curator and art historian based between the Netherlands and Cameroon. She was a participant of the De Appel 2018/19 curatorial Program. In 2017, Aude worked as an Assistant Curator for the SUD2017, an international triennial of art in the public space, organized by doual’art, a center for contemporary art, for the city of Douala, Cameroon. She is Co-curator of sonsbeek20–24 exhibition, an international exhibition in the city of Arnhem under the artistic direction of Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung. Aude defines her curatorial practice as an activist decolonial practice that includes research projects and platforms to transcribe, translate, and embody ancestral knowledge to heal contemporary traumas of the memory and the body.

This conversation is realized in cooperation with the project Curating in Context, organized by the Academy of Dramatic Art, University of Zagreb, within the Erasmus+ program. 

This program is presented as part of the collaborative project Communities of Learning, Bridging the Gap of Isolation, initiated by WHW and supported by the Culture of Solidarity Fund of the European Cultural Foundation.

The program is supported by:

Kontakt Collection / ERSTE Foundation 

Foundation for Arts Initiatives

European Cultural Foundation 

City of Zagreb

Kultura Nova Foundation

Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia