Cartography of Africa – Background of Maps
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Cartography of Africa – Background of Maps

Cartography of Africa – Background of Maps

Cartography of Africa – Background of Maps

Youngmoo Kim

Under the Western Eyes

One of the very most popular and decorative map of all early on maps of Africa, ”Africae nova descriptio” allows us to picture Africa through the eyes of Europeans in the early 1600s, the golden get older of Dutch mapmaking. Unlike many historical maps that continue to be as mysteries, the origins of the map are identified. Published in his 1630 Atlas Novus, this cornerstone map of Africa was made by Willem Janszoon Blaeu, a well-regarded Dutch cartographer. Blaeu was an astronomer, an instrument maker, an engraver, and a globe manufacturer. Like many map-makers of his time, he had not been an explorer himself: his maps were based from narratives of sailors, dealers, travelers, and explorers. As well as the accounts, he used earlier maps as a basic template for his very own as much of geographical information continues to be based on the Ptolemaic maps. Influences of Ptolemy’s Geographia, a manual on structure and drawings of maps created around 160, continued to appear in maps across Europe until 1730, obvious in Blaeu’s map as Ptolemaic lakes of Zaire and Zaflan will be shown as the sources of the Nile (Jones).

Even if the foundation of the map was unknown, you can easily determine the map as Africa perceived by an outsider. The expanses of oceans, constituting an excellent portion of the whole map, and the prominence of the ships bearing Dutch flags on the oceans, recommend that is a view of Africa from a maritime point of view. The majority of these ships will be drawn sailing around the Cape of Good Hope, and indeed, the European interest in Africa was mainly spurred at first by a quest of selecting an alternative path to Asia. Written generally in Latin, the labels of areas on the map are quite interesting as they are small individual puzzles that may serve as historic markers or hints that help contextualize the map. For instance, ”Barbaria” would be familiar to 17th hundred years Europeans as the pirates and slave investors of the ”Barbary coastline” were widely feared paper editing throughout southern Europe and northern Africa. Alternatively, ”Nubia,” labeled in your community along the Nile located in what is today southern Egypt, alludes to additional of a historic and anthropological photo: a mention of one of the earliest civilizations of historical Africa.

The most the names represented upon this map are better approximations of indigenous brands instead of names on maps which were made a century or so later. Because this 1630 map predates the entire force of European colonial guideline in Africa, the labels are also precolonial. For instance, ”Libya” is the precolonial name included in this map. When this territory was broadly included into one enormous territory under Italian colonial guideline, it was simply named ”Italian North Africa.” It was not until 1934 that the country name Libya- its current name – was reintroduced (”Libya Account – Timeline”). Etc, the name ”Libya” chronicles the struggle of Libyans’ indigenous notions of place and space: resembling a predicament in Raymond Craib’s Cartographic Mexico, where officials of Veracruz attempted to redefine and codify fugitive landscapes with their unique conceptions of background and territory (Craib).

One of the most interesting features of the map is the cartographer’s way of labeling the places on the map. The brands of the coastal towns and features of the map are imprinted inward towards the continent giving an illusion of fullness and comprehensive charting to the map. On closer examination, the densest areas portrayed on the map are the perimeter of the continent. In fact, several regions of interior Africa happen to be unidentified, many of which happen to be decorated with indigenous family pets such as elephants, lions, and ostriches. Only coastal towns are called on the Cape, with the printing covering much of unfamiliar territories. The map seems to focus on much more geographic detail in eastern Africa and the Mediterranean coastline compared to the west or the south, a sure sign of European exploration bias. Nevertheless, the blank places do not accurately reflect the truth, as Africa was a completely populated continent in the 1600s. Somewhat, they reflect the constraints of European knowledge and interests and the significance of Africa from a Eurocentric watch.

The sketches of towns and the illustrations displaying various indigenous outfits along the border of the map further more imply the coastal point of view of the continent. The side panels, depicting ten unique opinions of costumed natives from areas which Europeans presumably acquired contact with, happen in coastal towns. The oval views of major cities on the top border consist of Alexandria, Alger, Tunis, and Mozambique. These nine city and area plans above may have been main trading ports for the Dutch, or they might have already been significant places known to Blaeu through the accounts of his several sources.

Another captivating cartographic characteristic may be the identification of African territories and kingdoms outlined in color. However, these regions seem to reflect the nationhood of Africa through the eyes of Europeans. Unlike Europe, Africa had not been a place which can be conveniently presumed and projected onto an unexplored place. In Siam Mapped, Thongchai examines the territorial entity of Thailand by discovering its conception of nationhood. Prior to the late 19th hundred years, established boundaries had been nonexistent in Siamese knowledge of a territory. Overlapping or multiple sovereignties were common, while areas with no jurisdiction likewise existed (Thongchai). Consequently, it really is apparent that 17th hundred years explorers and sailors in Africa misconstrued boundary delineations and the struggled to comprehend indigenous conceptions of boundary that may possess very well existed in Africa. However, these identifications of territories would continue being more accurate through the next few century as more investors and explorers survey on a huge selection of ethnic territories and tribes.

In conditions of the map’s technical cartographic elements, this map is specially striking in a number of ways. Amazingly, the geographical representation is pretty accurate- Africa portrayed on the map is normally a close depiction to some of the scale and the condition of the continent. Some of the key topographical components of Africa, like the Nile river and the lakes in eastern Africa, are present, though they are quite inaccurate. The compass, sitting down along with the equator, can be elaborately detailed, with a fleur-de-lis schizophrenia case study pointing the north- Europe. This is simply not much of a surprise as it signifies perfection, light, and lifestyle. Although the longitude and the latitude brings more specificity to the directional aspect, a level or a length measure isn’t present on the map. Common to maps of this era, the artistic components of the map happen to be, indeed, clearly out of scale. It is impossible to tell what size or small the nine towns happen to be or their sizes relative to one another, and the animals and the ships on the oceans are drawn at a size that wildly distorts the level.

Nonetheless, the artistry of the map is completely stunning. The rich colors, the elaborately drawn artwork around the border, and the whimsical creatures scattered over area and sea suggest that this was as much a work of art as a map. It is very likely that map was an expensive and valuable possession and wouldn’t normally be accessible to many. It certainly was not a seafaring map nor a navigational map due to its lack of details or practicality. Most likely, Blaeu’s viewers included upper-class collectors, elites, and, probably, the emerging class of intellectuals who had been simply curious about ”exotic” spots and took portion in the expanding worldview of the Dutch in the following era.

Works Cited

Craib, Raymond B. Cartographic Mexico: A BRIEF HISTORY of Express Fixations and Fugitive Landscapes. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004.

Jones, Alexander. ”Ptolemy.” Encyclopædia Britannica. February 22, 2016. Accessed February 12, 2017.

”Libya Profile – Timeline.” BBC Information. November 21, 2016. Accessed February 16, 2017.

Thongchai, Winichakul. Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-physique of a Nation. Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, 2009.

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