An Obsession with Cartography

Cartography. Isn’t the word itself lovely?

I have to admit, I am overall a bit obsessed with the English language. It’s my favourite language in the world. And its literature and language components were always my favourite subjects in school.

So back to cartography: why is this what fascinates me now? I think it is a fascination that has always been there, but only recently surfaced. I can date it back to a childhood loving books like The Phantom Tollbooth, and an adolescence hoarding hardcopies of fantasy books that included a map to their world. And the view from a plane, well, it turns the earth into something fantastical. In fact, my very first blog was called ‘A view from above’. So you see, the seeds were always there, they simply blossomed through the course of this MA.

The idea of capturing stories was so firmly entrenched in my mind, yet gave me so much angst at the beginning of this whole journey. From the child who wrote her grandfather’s memoir to an adult who couldn’t complete a manuscript. From a young adult gearing to begin medical school, to a student of economics struggling to cope with these new subjects and a family fractured by cancer. From a child who had been brought up to value her academic prowess, and focus on scientific subjects to the detriment of her love for art and writing, to a young mother who had no idea how she got there. That’s who I was, or rather wasn’t, when I began painting again. I didn’t know who I was anymore, let alone what I was good at.

Turning over a new page in my life, beginning the Jeddah Chapter, I decided I would go and look for people and their stories. And the rest (if you’ve watched the symposium video) is history. I feel like I’ll always owe it to Jonathan and his generous way of teaching and the structure of this course, for guiding me towards recognising myself.

Last year, when I hadn’t even realised that representing the cartographic version of my journey was where I would end up, I actually begin to write a fantasy novel on a similar subject. I don’t want to say more, since it’s not published (yet) but I think sometimes our subconscious knows where we’re headed long before we get there.

Anyway, I’m halfway into creating those squares. It is my first time creating them so there are definite challenges, and some errors as well. Today, as I let the resin set, I began to wonder what my installation will be called. Names matter to me, a lot. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I’ve always hated the way my name sounds and loved its meaning? Perhaps because I grew up creating characters and thinking of titles to my unfinished stories? Point is, names matter. So what would my installation be called?

The journal and the video projection will be called The Untold Edition. But what about the map? Chasing its name, I ended up googling ‘mapping the self’. And I found myself reading that this was a whole category of work! Though the exact thing, of course, had not been done. It’s called ‘Sentimental Cartography’ and it is about people mapping the inner self. A kind of allegorical cartography. I am attaching the links of a few pages I found interesting.

Map of the Theater of the World

Allegorical Maps of Love, Courtship, and Matrimony

Unfortunately, despite spending the whole morning reading all this, I am no closer to a definitive name for the exhibit. I am unsure whether I should just group it under The Untold Edition… after all, that is the name I gave to a specific part of the project proposal. The realisation of a community project idea in Pakistan. This allegorical map is not part of that community project, rather an outcome; self discovery through it. Allegory in mosaic? At the very least I should change my project proposal title! 😉


Potential list of titles for this exhibit:

Mapping the Self

Allegory in Mosaic

A view from above


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