African Space Art Project – A world first for African art and space science

The article is adapted from an initial publication by EUMETSAT

(From R-L) Jean David Nkot, Géraldine Tobé, Paul Counet and Michel Ekeba at the artist selection ceremony, Paris, France, 27 November 2021. Source: AAD.

The African Space Art Project programme (ASAP), conceived of in 2017 by the French NGO African Artists for Development (AAD-fund), in partnership with EUMETSAT and Arianespace, was born out of this observation: Africa is the continent that emits the least CO2 yet suffers the most from global warming and extreme weather events. Based on this observation, which directly impacts the lives of hundreds of millions of people on the continent, AAD, EUMETSAT, and Arianespace have decided that in December 2022 (planned launch date), for the first time in African space and artistic history, a contemporary African work of art will be reproduced on the nose cone of Ariane 5, a key piece of protection for EUMETSAT’s next-generation satellite (Meteosat Third Generation) as it travels into space.

The Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) is a fleet of highly innovative, next-generation geostationary satellite systems consisting of three operational satellites — two imagers and one sounder — that will be operated by EUMETSAT. This system will serve Europe and Africa by supporting meteorological and related environmental services by significantly increasing the accuracy of short-range weather forecasting (nowcasting). In addition, the data from these satellites will also increase the accuracy of complex computer modelling of the weather (numerical weather prediction), air quality monitoring and climate monitoring.

ASAP aims to show the strategic importance of such a launch for the continent of Africa. The data these next-generation satellites will provide will make it possible to better monitor extreme weather events and anticipate their consequences, which will be crucial for the further socio-economic development of the continent.

In a first, three African artists: Michel Ekeba, Jean David Nkot and Géraldine Tobé, have produced a work of art through the African Space Art Project (ASAP) that will be launched into space with the first Meteosat Third Generation satellite operated by EUMETSAT. Source: EUMETSAT.

Jean David Nkot, Michel Ekeba and Géraldine Tobé created a unique work of art, a fusion of their three creative universes, during their residency in early 2022. Through their work, Michel Ekeba, Jean David Nkot and Géraldine Tobé could be considered to have the unique role of being African ambassadors in space. Matthias and Gervanne Leridon, co-presidents of the AAD fund, said, “The joint work of Jean David Nkot, Michel Ekeba and Géraldine Tobé that will accompany the launch of the next-generation satellite is a symbol of the power of contemporary creation and the future of the continent. Europe and Africa will only succeed in building their future by realising that they must work together. This project is a further step in this direction. It reflects the African continent’s essential role in the global concert of humanity and creation in the 21st century.”

Phil Evans, Director-General of EUMETSAT, said, “Through the ASAP project, African artists have expressed the link between space, Africa and climate change. These three elements are at the heart of what we do every day at EUMETSAT, with our satellites that observe the planet and cooperate with our partners in Africa. I am looking forward to seeing these three talented artists’ work accompanying our satellite into space.”

Stéphane Israël, Chairman and CEO of Arianespace, said, “The work of art displayed on the Ariane 5 that will protect the MTG satellite immediately after launch in December 2022 highlights the cooperation between Europe and Africa and the need for more space for Africa. Arianespace is proud and honoured to be part of this symbolic initiative for the African continent.”

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