“There are two things that are of vital interest for Africa: the ability to know about and write your own history, and the ability to plan for the future.”
Self taught artist Kiluanji Kia Hendi definitely focuses on the latter – in his 2007 installation Icarus 13, The First Journey to the Sun, he showcases eight photographs and a model that appear to document the construction and launch of a solar exploration mission in Luanda, Angola. The fiction unveiled by Kia Hendi unleashes both utopian and dystopian forces: flirting with the boldest vision of an African renaissance, it advocates trust in the glorious future of an oppressed nation and, indeed, an entire continent. However, the spaceship’s name, Icarus 13, points to the potential failure of the mission, thwarting that optimism to the greatest possible extent. The spacecraft featured in the project is a reinterpretation of a Soviet space flight monument gifted from Moscow to Luanda, a symbol of pride and optimism that the artist transforms into a memorial, as if to say: “Do not fly too high, Icarus, instead, plan your future upon reality!” Navigating the gap between pretension and reality, plans veiled in visionary words and pre-programmed pitfalls, Kia Henda unmistakably alludes to present-day Angola, a context where an uncontrollable, unstable oil boom could yield the same unpredictable consequences as a space mission to the sun.