Mzansi Afrika

From Johannesburg South Africa, a window on the world

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

New perspectives on African maps

The Parliamentary Millennium Project brings together an astonishing collection of ancient maps and artefacts, contrasting Western representations with earlier Eastern ones, and with African forms of social and cultural mapping, to shed new light on the history of "the dark continent". Post-apartheid South Africa remains divided when it comes to the perspectives people have of society. Based on the premise that our polarised views emanate from our very different experiences of history, the Parliamentary Millennium Project explores different historical perspectives of Africa, with the aim of building a common understanding among South Africans.

A replica of the earliest and largest known map of Africa is currently on display in Parliament as part of the exhibition "Perspectives on and of Africa". The map, the Da Ming Hun Yi Tu, was created in 1389 and has never been exhibited before. An unexplored perspective on Africa is the Asian one. Contrary to popular belief, it was the Asians who first encountered Africa. The map provides evidence of contact between Africa and China well before the European voyages of discovery.