the artist who brings the first african-american astronaut to space

November 22, 2018

words by: Bere Wangge

After receiving a grant from LACMA Art + Technology Lab in 2014, Bahamian-born artist Tavares Strachan was going to use the fund to work with rockets made from his home country’s natural resources. Later on, it developed into two projects instead: Chalkboard Drawings (2015) and ENOCH, which will be launched in the very near future.  

With ENOCH, Strachan is planning to make African-American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.’s dream come true by bringing him into outer space. 

But the thing is— Lawrence is, well, no longer alive. 

Lawrence would have made history as the first African-American astronaut if it wasn’t for his untimely death at a training accident in 1967. Little was known about him until NASA honored him last year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his passing. But the gesture was too little too late for Strachan, who is determined to dedicate an entire art project (the aforementioned ENOCH) to Lawrence.  

  Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

Robert Henry Lawrence Jr.

Since it's impossible for Lawrence to be physically available, Strachan will take the astronaut’s “soul” into space instead. He started by creating a vessel for the soul. Inspired by the ancient Egyptian practice to preserve organs of the deceased, he fashioned a 24-karat gold canopic jar with a bust of Lawrence.  

bahamian artist tavares strachan works with spacex to send the first african-american astronaut into space with his enoch project - 01.jpg

The jar was then blessed by a Shinto priest at a shrine in Fukuoka, Japan and, by doing so, it officially become a container for Lawrence’s soul. Afterward, Strachan christened it “ENOCH,” which is derived from a figure found in Jewish, Christian and Muslim sacred texts. It is said that “Enoch” ascended directly into afterlife and, therefore, never experienced mortal death. 

All that’s left is to send the jar into space. To do that, the jar will be put it in a satellite, which will be launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. It will then circle the earth for seven years before it burns up as it re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere.

bahamian artist tavares strachan works with spacex to send the first african-american astronaut into space with his enoch project - 02.jpg

The launch will be streamed live on the official website. A notice on the site also mentioned that the anticipated launch date is no sooner than November 27, so we have that to look forward to. 


Images c/o Museum Associates/LACMA
Thumbnail image c/o SpaceX