The Mercator Projection Map has been around for centuries. Created by Gerardus Mercator in 1559, it was initially designed to help sailors navigate waters and was unique in its representation of “north as up and south as down.” But while the general shapes and locations of the land masses remained intact, its cylindrical projection also meant that the sizes of countries were grossly misrepresented. For instance, Africa is roughly 14 times larger than Greenland, but according to this map, they are the same size.
Does it come down to the creator of the map? Gerardus Mercator was a white man living in a time when slavery was common practice and Europe was “king.” Is it really surprising that he made his continent the center of the universe? “The biggest economic powers were given the space on paper to flex their border biceps.”
On the other hand, one could argue it’s simply the result of an imperfect design that doesn’t necessarily target Africa. (Canada looks rather large when in reality, it’s not much bigger than Australia.)
Fast-forward a few hundred years later, and the AuthaGraph Map is born. Invented by Japanese architect Hajime Narukawa in 1999, he represents the world on a 2D rectangle. It’s an improvement as it doesn’t have “some of the major distortions” of its predecessor and even won the 2016 Good Design Grand Award from the Japan Institute of Design Promotion.
Yet, despite the achievement of the AuthaGraph map — and its more accurate representation of the world as a whole — the Mercator map and all its inaccuracies is still the one commonly used to teach and represent the world’s geography today.
Is this just another form of whitewashing? Winston Churchill (supposedly) once said, “History is written by victors.” It’s true. It’s no secret that our books are woefully lacking an inclusive and correct representation of all peoples and their contributions — particularly African and Caribbean nations. That was, without a doubt, intentional — and actionable steps are being taken to right those wrongs in our educational system.
But even IF Gerardus Mercator created his map without a shred of bias or discrimination, the fact is it has remained a standard representation far past the date of acceptability. Tru, neither map is 100% accurate. But why are we continuing the normalization of what the Mercator map represents? Is it psychological? Is it another attempt to minimize and diminish the peoples of Africa? What’s the point of holding onto outdated data if not an effort to hold onto an antiquated belief of superiority over certain nations and nationalities?
Tell us what you think. Does the Mercator map impact your views of your country or the world as a whole? Do you think there’s something bigger at play and a (not so hidden) agenda to continue the subjugation of the African continent? Share your thoughts below.