Rashiyah Elanga

Another dream under the Troposphere, 2023

Film and digital photo collages, 18 min
Actresses: Elie Autins, Lalla Nomoko, Rashiyah Elanga
Music Kamal Jahi
Project management Emma Bombail
Script, direction and editing Rashiyah Elanga
Kamera Camera Jing Lin, Rashiyah Elanga
Makeup Simon Mine
With thanks to Kabena Kasangati, Jackson Bukasa, Jean Patrice Keka, Valentin Noujaim, Camille Claire
Courtesy the artist

Rashiyah Elanga are a filmmaker and installation artist. Their work is characterised by an aesthetic of digital collage and performative storytelling. They have developed the video installation Another dream under the Troposphere for the Frankfurter Kunstverein. It describes a journey into the unknown, in search of identity, an imaginary voyage into space that they relate to events in Congo, the country Elanga’s parents come from, a country Rashiyah have never visited, yet imagine in their films. Elanga are one of the many voices engaged in the current debate on cultural allegiance in the post-colonial age and the dissolution of rigid boundaries of identity.

Rashiyah Elanga locate the starting point of their fiction Another dream under the Troposphere in the capital of Congo. An off-screen female voice describes how the astronaut Elie takes off in a spaceship from La Place du 30 Juin, the central square in Kinshasa, and heads towards the moon Europa. Once there, Elie, full of hope and fascination tries to plant life. Her exploration is interrupted by the arrival of two other astronauts who try to convince her to return to planet Earth. They are aware that the utopia of starting a new life in space cannot be the solution for a better life for their community.

However, Elie has fallen in love with Pando, original inhabitant of the moon, who does not return her feelings. The love story ends tragically, resulting in a feeling of speechlessness and alienation. Elie overcomes the pain of disappointment by re-discovering herself.

The destination of the journey is not chosen by chance. Europa is a real moon of the planet Jupiter. As the surface of the moon is icy, the presence of salt water under the icy shell has led scientists to consider for several years that Europa may be a place for life in the solar system. Through a post-colonial lens, Elanga’s film narrates a metaphorical reverse colonisation of Europe, here meant as a continent; a reference to Congo’s colonial history is also suggested by the protagonists’ choice of costumes, with white skirts and gowns, corsets and ruffs in the style of 16th century European scholars and scientists. Pop style wigs and make-up with glittery sci-fi accents reminiscent of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust complete the look, steering the narrative towards the futuristic.

Another dream under the Troposphere is a video work with elements of fantasy, magical realism, science fiction and also draws on Congolese Bantu cosmology. Created exclusively in the studio, the scenes are filmed against a green background. Elanga collage footage from the internet and filmed scenes during post-production, creating a mix of digital and analogue. The result is a narrative whose simple low-tech aesthetic evokes early cinema pioneer George Méliès (*1861 † 1938 in Paris, FR) in films such as Le Voyage dans la Lune (The Voyage to the Moon), 1902. The aspect of craftsmanship becomes the creative moment of their work. An essential feature of Elanga’s visual language is the visible, analogue animation of self-made objects in front of a green screen. The artist animate objects with their own hands, which remain visible and are not subsequently airbrushed away. They dispense with high-tech post-processing methods as a way to celebrate a do-it-yourself aesthetic that is an established stylistic feature in numerous internet subcultures.

Rashiyah Elanga take post-colonial and speculative narratives of Afrofuturism and connect them to the Congolese astro-programme Keka Aerospace. Privately initiated and crowdfunded, the private Congolese company has developed a series of rockets designed to travel into the troposphere. Another dream in the Troposphere is not only Rashiyah Elanga’s vision of an odyssey in space, but also a hero’s journey, the story of a struggle for new ways of being and the search for identity. This adventure describes the journey to self-love, from exploration to introspection in search of ourselves.

Rashiyah Elanga (*1997 in FR) graduated in 2022 from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main (DE) with Prof. Gerard Byrne and before that in 2019 from the National Fine Art School of Lyon (FR). They work mainly with video, sculpture and performance. Among others, Rashiyah Elanga have exhibited at the following institutions: Macro Museo, Rome (DE), 4redeyes, Zurich (CH), Centre d’art Arsenic, Lausanne (CH), Cherishh, Geneva (CH), Palmengarten, Frankfurt am Main (DE), Mountain Gallery, Berlin (DE). 2022 they won the Rundgang Prize from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste – Städelschule.