Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Wall Maps, part I

Niece #1 recently acquired a vintage wall map of Brazil that is so stunningly beautiful that when I saw it for the first time I was shut down mid-sentence and just stood there, mouth open, gaping at it.  

This inspired me to bring out of cold storage, and find a hanging space for, one of my treasures.

Now, the "Belgian Congo" was one of the great unambiguous atrocities of modern world history, so as a historical artifact this map is tainted by what your philosopher of cartography might call its reification of King Leopold's personal slave state.   

But damn, it's beautiful.

And in addition to the rich historical specifics, it has an awful lot to say about time, change, and the enduring, and about how the way we describe the world really does turn out to color the way we experience it and the way that things happen in it, even if not necessarily in the strict linguistic sense.

Check this out: the LEGENDE, along with its lovely TEINTES HYPOSMETRIQUES, locates Missions catholque et Missions protestante.  On a map 2500 kilometers across!  

And maybe this is what makes this map so fascinating: it tells us so much more about the mindset of its makers than it does about the place they thought they were describing.



Aviatrix said...

That's amazing. That's a thing of wonder and beauty. Where did you get it? It looks like it's in beautiful condition. Make a quilt of that, Michael 5000 and I will have no 'refreshingly original' comments about it.

Rebel said...

That is really cool. Maps do tell us more about the makers than the places sometimes!

Also... sounds like Niece #1 is coming along nicely under your uncle-ly influence. =)

Jenners said...

Even I can appreciate the loveliness of this map.

And is Niece #1 an acquisitor of maps because of your influence or did she come to this on her own? And, more importantly, how can you get that map away from her?

Jennifer said...

After the lead-in about Niece #1's "stunningly beautiful" map, I have to admit I was a little disappointed at first to see that we were just getting a picture of your map. I hope a picture of the other one is forthcoming for aesthetic comparison? :-)

Michael5000 said...

Aviatrix: I, um, found it. It really is in good condition!

Rebel, Jenners: I don't really think it was the avuncular influence what done it. She just has good taste.

Jennifer: Truth is, I didn't bring a camera along for my tour of my niece's apartment. So no.

Elaine said...

I remember all of those place-names! 'Belgian Congo' still conjures up images of romance and adventure, does it not? Novels of Jan de Hartog? and so forth?

Aviatrix said...

You, um, found it? I'm going to assume that you found it either

(a) in the storage area of some prestigious museum, on an expedition that involved laser beam alarms, catsuits, and rappelling, or

(b) with the last remains of an explorer in the Belgian Congo.

Michael5000 said...

Kind of a combination of those two. It was totally fraught with images of romance and adventure.