Mapping Place: Africa Beyond Paper

Exhibition Dates: 
February 28 to June 6, 2014

Mapping Place: Africa Beyond Paper is the result of collaborations between several organizations at Georgia Tech. The Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts and the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking provided the organization and oversight of the exhibition process.

By recognizing at the outset that multiple ‘concepts’ shape our approach to Africa, this exhibition invites visitors to ask themselves how they perceive the continent and particularly to think about the relation between their ideas of the space of Africa and the stories that have emerged from understandings of that space. The exhibition also recognizes the precarious place of the museum in approaching Africa. Rather than thinking of the museum as authorial space, Mapping Place presents it as a laboratory where visitors may explore the images and objects that they encounter. To this end it serves as a vehicle for looking towards Africa’s future. In the words of Wole Soyinka, “All claims that Africa has been explored are as premature as news of her imminent demise. A truly illuminating exploration of Africa has yet to take place.” This exhibition offers a modest step toward an ongoing exploration of Africa.

The exhibition asks about the ways that the European cartographic projections of Africa conceal indigenous practices of place. It challenges viewers to see how maps remind us that at the vantage points from which they are drawn also carry limits. While mapping technologies reveal particular sets of information, they also make other elements invisible. For Africa, mapping carries a paradoxical force of revealing and concealing. Above all, Africa challenges us to understand that one map is never enough.

Included in the exhibit are examples of European representations of Africa on paper maps from the late 16th to the 20th centuries. Also featured is a Lukasa, a memory board used by the Luba peoples of Central Africa. An interactive digital media table allows visitors to create their own digital story which becomes part of the exhibit. Also featured is a Lukasa, a memory board used by the Luba peoples of Central Africa.  An interactive digital media table allows visitors to create their own digital story which becomes part of the exhibit.