“The circuit boards seen on this spacewalker (and found in nearly all electronic devices, including cell phones, laptops, and gaming consoles) are fabricated primarily in China using tantalum, a chemical element extracted from coltan, one of the five conflict minerals recognized by the U.S. Department of State and of which 80% of the world’s supply is located in DRC. Tantalum was named after the villainous Greek mythological figure Tantalus because of the “tantalizing” challenge of dissolving the element due to its high density and resistance to heat and acids. Parallels can be drawn to the punishment of Tantalus, who was doomed to be forever surrounded by good things without permission to enjoy them, and citizens of the DRC, who find themselves situated in a nation widely considered the world’s richest in terms of natural resources but who remain (because of exclusionary neocolonial extractivist exploitation) among the world’s most economically oppressed. This present reality is a continuation of the violent and profiteering past of Belgian colonial rule under the direction of King Leopold II. As a response, Kongo Astronauts reappropriate e-waste, which Western countries ship to various countries on the African continent rather than paying to recycle, to construct the fantastical spacewalker, and to raise questions about the crises of late capitalism and climate change.”

Rachel Kabukala, 2022