sábado, 4 de marzo de 2017

My That's English! Revisited -Mapping Africa

The In Pictures section of the BBC News website hosts slideshows about a wide range of current and historical topics.

One of the audio slideshows is Mapping Africa, which gives us a five-minute presentation of the changing map of Africa from 14th century to today.

Self-study activity:
Watch and listen to the audio slideshow and say whether the following statements are true or false.

1 The Sahara has always been infertile.
2 A Berber tribe gives its name to the continent.
3 The maps shows a mix of religions in the north of Africa.
4 Some of the kingdoms in the 1625 map are real.
5 The 1625 map was drawn with information from travelers and traders.
6 Ethiopia in Greek means South Atlantic.
7 People at that time showed respect for the boundaries.
8 The map shows places where slaves were kept.
9 The 1898 map shows borders for the first time.
10 The blank areas in the map show that the area is not populated.

H/T to Free Technology for Teachers.


A 14th century map produced by the Catalan state, and this map is really a composite of information brought by Arab travellers, Portuguese explorers just beginning to explore the coast of West Africa and hitting on the Canary Islands.

The Sahara has not always been the sort of empty place that we think of it as it was the bread basket of the Roman Empire, and it’s the top end of the Sahara that actually gives its name to the whole of the continent. A tribe of Berber people lived in what is now Tunesia, who called themselves the Africhia, who gave their name to Africa as a continent, on the map their position in what is now the Sudan.

There’s a river that runs north to south, that’s the Nile. The upper ends of the river contain a
number of cities with crosses on the top, denoting that these were Christian kingdoms, but the map also depicts on its northern coast a city with the star of David, so clearly a Jewish city.

For 1625 it’s quite an accurate description of the landmass of Africa. What we learn from this that some of the kingdoms we hear about in the 19th and 20th century were actually real rather than imaginary. This map would have been made or drawn with narratives collected from Africans who came from the hinterland to the coast, because the European travellers were not necessarily familiar with the areas further inland, so would have relied upon that, people who came to the coast to trade.

Also in this particular map what I thought was really striking is that while the North Atlantic is called the Atlantic Sea the south Atlantic is called the Ethiopian Ocean. Ethiopia is the Greek word for somebody who is black, and so clearly the old name for the South Atlantic was the black people sea.

This map has no borders, I think that’s because the rivers and the mountains depicted in it are the borders of different ethnicities.

These trade routes show products coming from modern-day Ghana, products coming from north of Nigeria and products going towards the coast. We can see through the range of things that were exchanged cattle, cloth, salt. People have always moved to play their trade. They have had to disregard the boundaries because the boundaries were almost always arbitrary.

This map would have been made for and by the British government. It just confirms the point of long-established trade routes. We know that this area is maybe further than, is very rich in copper because then they are going to the central Africa. We know the huge history of cloth-making around here. I’m not too pleased with the word slaves, but human beings were sold from here perhaps these were, places where, they were kept.

And this is the map produced in 1889, for the first time you see borders of some sort or the other. What is interesting is the majority of these borders are straight lines and clearly not drawn by Africans or for Africans. The map is also colour-coded, the yellow areas representing the areas of the German sphere of influence, the Portuguese areas are two green areas on either end, Angola , Mozanbique. And the rose colour at the bottom of the Cape colony, slowly and gradually moving up to cut Africa in two. There are large areas inland which are blank, and that’s kind of saying, you know, free for sale, nobody’s here, unlike the earlier maps that show all these places fully populated. And so within this map you see the emergence of the kind of empty dark Africa ready for exploitation and the kind of notions that still have a legacy today.

1F 2T 3T 4T 5T 6F 7F 8T 9F (1889) 10F