The Secret Lives of Maps

By 22nd February 2019 Articles

Cartography is a relatively specialised area of study, and unsurprisingly you don’t come across too many map fanatics these days. That being said maps have always been popular as decor items, but not that many people spend time studying them in detail. Perhaps if viewers took the time to stop and pay attention, they would be fascinated by what maps can reveal. Even a simple street map will show glimpses of the history of an area. Look at an apartheid era street map and you will undoubtedly notice discarded road names, changes in the use of municipal or government buildings (such as the KwaMuhle Museum which at one point was the office for the Native Affairs Department in Durban), and even the demarcation lines for entire areas shifting.

Original architects of apartheid

In fact town planning, and as such street maps, were one of the primary tools of apartheid, as the government sought to separate areas along racial lines, the legacy of which we’re still experiencing today.

So if we’ve peeked your interest enough, why not take a trip down to the Old Court House Museum. The museum, which incidentally is reputed to have had the first elevator in Durban, houses an impressive collection of local maps, offering a somewhat different perspective on the history of Durban.

Images courtesy of sahris.sahra.org.za and www.sahistory.org.za

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