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Avions De Nuit

By Pumle April

In the Cameroonian imaginary “Avions de nuit” (night planes) are tiny vessels fuelled by the blood of their cargo, that make nightly flights across the Atlantic (or to neighbouring oil economies like Chad, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea – nuff people in Nigeria) carrying passages into slavery. According to news reports they could be as small as an empty tin of sardines or even a box of matches – yet despite their size any one of these planes can carry as many as twenty jumbies and fly out to great distances, with a common goal – to suck dry human beings.

The shell-body that remains would be asked: “who sold you?”

In South Africa thikholoshe extract the souls of innocent victims and transport them to the mythical kingdom of Gwadana, where they are harnessed to ride baboons through the night skies as Isisthunzela, doing the bidding of their masters. In towns bordering South Africa, Zimbabwean pilots are reported to have been found naked with paraphernalia associated with flying by night including owls, winnowing baskets and baboon skeletons.

These stories are usually dismissed as tabloid fodder but they also carry a deeper historic cargo (slavery, forced labour, das kapital), and use myth-technology to build, in Koshun’s words, “an interface between science and myth … a continuum from technology to magic and back again.”




This graphic story features in the Chronic (August 2016), an edition in which we explore ideas around mythscience, science fiction and graphic storytelling. In opposition to the idea of the future as progress – a linear march through time – we propose a sense of time is innately human: “it’s time” when everyone gets there.

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