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African artistic imaginaries, from the Jet Age to the Space Race 
Kate Cowcher (University of St Andrews)
Abel Tilahun
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Tobias Wofford (Virgnia Commonwealth University)
Arts and Culture (x) Infrastructure (y)
Philosophikum, S57
Thursday 1 June, -
Time zone: Europe/Berlin

Short Abstract:

This panel explores the intersections of art, the Jet Age and the Space Race. The 1960s transportation revolution coincided with the age of independence and the Cold War, igniting both creative visions of a future facilitated by jet-powered technology, and awareness of its militaristic potential.

Long Abstract:

The era of independence for many nations on the African continent coincided with two revolutions in transportation technology: the advent of the jet engine and the first forays beyond our earth’s atmosphere. Both were conceived as embodiments of the future. Ethiopian Airlines, founded in 1945 after the return of Emperor Haile Selassie from exile, was the first African airline to order 720b jet engine planes. Throughout the 1960s many of the continent’s new nations followed; jet-powered national airlines were both practically and symbolically significant. Contemporaneously, space exploration led to the continent being a stage for Cold War satellite technology, as seen at Kagnew Station in Asmara. It ignited imaginations in places like Zambia, where Edward Makuka Nkoloso launched his astronaut training programme in 1965, which may, as Namwali Serpell has speculated, have been an elaborate satire.

This panel invites paper proposals that explore the intersections of art, the Jet Age and the Space Race. In what ways did artists respond to the era of rapid international and extra-terrestrial travel? How did jet technology facilitate the movement and connectivity of Africa’s creative practitioners? To what extent did space exploration inspire new futurist visions? In what ways were artists involved in the practical designs of national airlines and their advertising materials? And, how are contemporary artists continuing to activate the imagined possibilities of the era? These are some of the questions this panel will explore as it charts the impact of the transportation revolution on the continent’s creative imaginaries.

Accepted papers:

Session 1 Thursday 1 June, 2023, -