Human Cartography and the Need for Stories from the Sahel

28 Apr

Marianne Bevan from the elevenhoursahead team is currently living and working in Togo and has started a blog called elevenhoursabroad. Here is a a taster…

“What did most of us know of such parts of Africa? The armies of the Nile moved back and forth – a battlefield eight hundred miles deep into the desert. Whippet tanks, Blenheim medium-range bombers. Gladiator biplane fighters. Eight thousand men. But who was the enemy? Who were the allies of this place – the fertile lands of Cyrenaica, the salt marshes of El Agheila? All of Europe were fighting their wars in North Africa, in Sidi Rezegh, in Baguoh”.[1]

When I was 14 I came across Almásy, a fictional cartographer who mapped the history of the Sahara Desert believing that it would show how “power and finance were temporary things”. Prior to reading Michael Ondaatje’s description of desert exploration, I had seen the Sahara as a sparse and isolated landscape, a place of marginal existence. Growing up in rural New Zealand, in what felt like a distant corner of the world, the idea of continuing to dwell in isolated spaces held little appeal. I was more interested in escaping to the ‘centres of power’ and so the history I read was that of Europe and North America.

You can read the full piece here


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