Africa is Bigger Than We Realize

Africa is much bigger than we think, hence the title. The map was created by designer Kai Krause. To start off you must know that most maps we see are based on the “Mercator Projection” that came up in 1569. As seen from the map you can put all these places together to replicate the complete size of Africa. There are two meanings in this map that we must come to understand. Africa is greatly underestimated in size due to the Mercator Projection and Africa is the motherland for every place in the world.

Why is Africa never portrayed in its actual size? The “Mercator Projection” is the reason why. The Mercator projection, is the type of map projection introduced by Gerardus Mercator. This projection is widely used for navigation charts, because any straight line on a Mercator projection map is a line of constant true bearing that enables a navigator to plot a straight-line course. The “Mercator Projection” is terrible for estimating the size of large masses of land. Under the “Mercator Projection” Africa looks about the same size of Greenland but Africa is actually 13 to 14 times larger. Flat maps also contribute to this distortion as the landmasses towards the pole are extremely exaggerated. It is also mentioned that European imperialism is to blame as well. As Africa did decolonize and become independent imperialism did not go away. Europeans continued to make maps with Africa disoriented to express their power. Ancient and modern conquerors chose to make Africa look much smaller to exert their power and authority. As we can see from the map, Africa is bigger than China, the U.S, Western & Eastern Europe, Japan, Mexico, and India. That’s not it either—Africa is also bigger than Russia, Canada, Brazil and many more countries. We all consider size equals power. Map makers know this and a high percentage of people have never been to Africa. We know Africa from what we see on social media. For example, we see these commercials about “25 cents a day to save a child’s life in Africa.” From commercials like this we assume that Africa is really poor. In reality, that’s only in a few places in Africa, as I’ve heard from people that have actually been to Africa. It’s the same thing with maps. We think Africa is not as big as other places on the map and in terms of imperialism we don’t think it’s that powerful at all. That’s the real power of maps.

Besides the issue of size, I also want to think of a deeper meaning for this map. I want to think of a deeper meaning this map can represent: the idea that everyone descended from Africa, and that Africa is the motherland for all people, no matter their race. Scientists believe all homo sapiens are from Africa as the earliest remains are all found in present day Botswana. Scientists have found a genetic string that researchers were able to figure that every person today descended from a woman who lived in present day Botswana about 200,000 years ago. The question is: did Kai Krause think about this idea when representing Africa on his map? I think this is possibly one, but also important, meaning of Krause’s map. Krause’s underlying meaning is represented, while the obvious is right in front of us that Africa is misrepresented in ancient and modern maps due to European imperialism and the Mercator Projection.

Finally, One thing I was thinking about is that you could tie this to the idea of “counter-mapping” that we’ve discussed in class. In other words, this map is clearly meant to provoke discussion and debate and especially to challenge the usual ways like the Mercator that I previously discussed that we see maps.


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6 Responses to Africa is Bigger Than We Realize

  1. Corianne Nichols says:

    When scrolling down the Mappenstance blog website this map immediately stood out to me because of the display of the different sizes of countries in Africa. I know Africa is a huge continent but I thought it was especially interesting to see just how big in comparison to the United States since that is the country that I am constantly learning about, and of course live in. I think Dji did a good job of explaining why this map is important what it means when you hear the statement “size equals power”. He also gave some deeper meaning and brought up some interesting questions to ask yourself which made this enjoyable to read.

  2. Jeffrey Nugent says:

    Great choice of a map Dji. I have never looked into how big countries were while seeing maps but this really shows how big Africa is compared to other countries. I like the way the map maker used the United States as a reference to Africa because we all think the U.S. is huge but in comparison it is just a small piece of what Africa is. Also the idea that Africa is the “Motherland” was interesting to listen to and be able to understand what it means.

  3. Graham Eisen says:

    This map was very cool because I learned something new from it. I knew Africa was large but didn’t know the Mercator projection made it look smaller than it actually is. The fact that so many large countries could fit in it is cool. Connecting the way Africa appears physically smaller to the way it is portrayed as lesser than is a unique point of view on the map. I would have never connected those dots but now that Dji did it I won’t forget it.

  4. Foster Lyman says:

    This map is extremely intriguing and is a great overall critique of the Mercator Projection, perhaps the most commonly used projection on maps today. It quickly and clearly exposes the downfalls of the Mercator Projection by arguing that Africa is much more massive then we have been led to believe. Dji, you point this out perfectly in your post, too. You reveal that the Mercator Projection is the result of European/Western thinking that has prevailed to this day. I think that the map is only shocking because our schools and teachers were taught with the Mercator Projection and simply passed it down to us. While the Mercator Projection serves its purposes, more, geographically-accurate, projections should be used throughout society so that nobody is surprised when they learn how big Africa is. Overall, your post covers the Mercator Projection wonderfully and provides a great critique!

  5. Alanna Curtis says:

    This map is super cool and informative. I definitely learned something new from this map. Like most other people, I am mainly familiar with the Mercator projection. Before this class, I never really thought about how certain maps skew reality. So many people don’t know the reality of the size of Africa. I think this map is really important because so many people are misinformed.

  6. Nathan Jareb says:

    The map shown here is super interesting, and really does a great job at making its point that the Mercator Projection gives a super inaccurate picture of the true size of a lot of the global south. The Mercator is used all the time in classrooms across the country, and even on our phones when we’re getting directions with services like Google Maps, and most people really don’t know how large Africa and other continents and countries near the equator really are as a result. This map accomplishes a lot even with its relative simplicity, and that’s how you know it’s a great map. It’s super cool how this connects to ideas like countermapping that we dealt with in class too.

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