'For real, that is not a shadow, but an upright being squeezed up against the edge. Kind of like a human form with two arms and legs, a narrow, oval face framed by a cap looking like a bare skull, clothed in a blue overall that they only had a glimpse of previously. Dead quiet. Francois lowers the torch, lifts it again. One thing is for sure: this being is just as afraid as they are.'
From Die Hemelblom (The Heavenly Flower) by Jan Rabie, 2nd edition 1974, Tafelberg, first published 1971. Translated from the original Afrikaans by Nic Grobler.
The Hemelblom was sent to the earth by a concerned galactic council to ensure the survival of life on earth in the face of a new world war. The plant was specifically grown to remove the poisonous elements introduced by humans - feeding on pollution it would rapidly cover the earth and wipe out most of humankind but leave a new earth covered with fresh fertile soil.
“Hemelliggaam (Afrikaans: Heavenly Body) or The Attempt To Be Here Now” is a growing visual archive of photography and video installations, exploring the existential aspects of the human-environment-astronomy relationship, constantly moving between the reality of important scientific sites (such as the South African Large Telescope in Sutherland and the Square Kilometre Array in Carnarvon) and the imaginative fragments of old Afrikaans science fiction novels - in particular reference to one of the most existential and emblematic writers, Jan Rabie with the novels 'Swart Ster oor die Karoo' (Black Star over the Karoo, 1957), ‘Die Groen Planeet’ (The Green Planet, 1961) and 'Die Hemelblom’ (Heaven Flower), 1971. The project (still in progress) is mainly focused on communities, landscapes and objects located in the Western and Northern Cape, South Africa, where there is a special connection with the sky.
“Hemelliggaam or The Attempt To Be Here Now” created by Tommaso Fiscaletti and Nic Grobler, is curated by Filippo Maggia and is supported by a scientific team including Mattia Vaccari, Lucia Marchetti and Michelle Cluver from Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of the Western Cape and the researcher Davide Chinigò.
The Original sounds for installations and video works are composed by Alessandro Gigli.
This archive is contributing to the Roadmap of the History of Astronomy in South Africa as promoted by the National Research Foundation (NRF) which is also one of the main sponsors along with Farnesina (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and international Cooperation) and the Consulate of Italy in Cape Town.
The Chapter one of “Hemelliggaam or The Attempt To Be Here Now” has taken the form of a travelling exhibition and is currently on display in Carnarvon in the Northern Cape - returning to some of the protagonists of the project. An indoor and outdoor exhibition has also been on display at the Iziko South African Museum & The Company’s Garden in Cape town, South African Astronomical Observatory, Observatory Cape Town, SAAO Sutherland visitor Centre & Sutherland Planetarium. Moreover the project has been on display in Basel, Switzerland, between the 2018 winners of the CAP Prize (Contemporary African Photography Prize).
On September 2019 a preview of the Chapter Two will be on display at Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Guarene D’Alba, Italy as part of the exbibition “Guarene Etna”, curated by Filippo Maggia (the exhibition will move to Catania, IT, in 2020).
The extended version of “Hemelliggaam or the Attempt to Be Here Now” composed by all three chapters will be displayed from 2020 in South Africa and abroad.
Carnarvon Museum and Kareeberg Library, Carnarvon, Northern Cape, SA (until August 2019)
Instagram : @hemelliggaam
Additional selection, can look at providing shortened captions if necessary.