Artist Profile

Kongo Astronauts

Kongo Astronauts is an artist collective founded by the Kinshasa-based duo Michel Ekeba and Eléonore Hellio. Their multi-media practice includes photography, film, sculpture, and performance, and engages with Kinshasa’s alternative culture network. Kongo Astronauts’ Afrofuturist prism projects a reality that surmounts both the postcolonial chaos of their urban setting and the inchoate persistence of the jungle. At the same time, they beam a critical spotlight on the forces that have shaped this environment and continue to form it. In their images, we sense our own human fragility and catch our own reflections as we struggle with the crises of late capitalism and climate change.

Featured Works

Postcolonial Dilemna #Track 3 (Unended), 2014-2017

Technological wizardry transports a traveler to a new world, in a parallel universe. This trip seems bizarre, yet because humans have walked the moon and landed machines on Mars, the trippy imaginings in such pop-culture icons as Star Trek and The Man Who Fell to Earth (and many others) are virtually possible. The astronaut landed in this film probes a jungle of towering trees and trailing lianas, weapon in hand, wary of attack whether by humans, animals or aliens. S/he follows a path already laid down; meaning both that there is history here, and there is a destination ahead. We experience a journey through other journeys, through what has been constructed before, even if it has fallen.

Postcolonial Dilemna #Track4 (Remix mix) within the multi-dimensional world of Bebson Elemba

Postcolonial Dilemma Track #04 (Remix Mix)id the 2019  incarnation of a film series of the same name, Kongo Astronauts’ films being infinitely remixable, as filmmaker and co-founder of Kongo Astronauts,  Eléonore Hellio explains.

The film’s non-narrative journey opens with a metaphor of “extractavism”—which Kongo Astronauts defines as the economic process of colonial and post-colonial extraction that operates both on natural resources and on human subjects:  a face superimposed on the earth is shattered with a pickaxe, then excavated with a spade. In gritty, post-apocalyptic urban settings, a performer with fire suggests a Promethean attempt to forge a device—perhaps a flamethrower. A violent victory dance with machetes and images of barefooted children on jungle paths evoke the teenage soldiers who rampaged through eastern Congo, massacres made with the simplest of means. Masked figures, as if possessed, make inchoate noises and incoherent utterances, linking us to atavistic masquerades as well as the masked astronauts of our present and the science-fiction movies that have become part of our global imaginary: of Star Wars, Space Odyssey 2001, Mad Max, Blade Runner. We are in the belly of the beast, but there are also a flower, an owl, a flock of birds, children make ethereal music out of garbage. In the end, there is clay being molded.

Postcolonial Dilemna Track #05 (in the process of), 2021

Set among the crumbling factories on a former Unilever plantation in Lusanga (formerly Leverville), in the Kwilu Province of Democratic Republic of Congo, a UFO descends. The astronaut, accompanied by ancestral spirits from the future, struggles to regain consciousness, and together they set off through an interzone of heavy cultural overlaps.

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