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Published on Monday, September 16, 2019


The Brussels Map Circle invites you to a whole day of conferences on the cartography of Africa from the 16th to the 19th century. Three renowned speakers, Prof. Em. Elri Liebenberg, Prof. Dr. Imre Demhardt and Wulf Bodenstein will share their knowledge in the prestigious frame of the completely renovated AfricaMuseum in Tervuren (close to Brussels).



10.00 – 10.30 - Welcome visitors with coffee

  • 10.30 – 10.45 - Absurd Mistakes and Blunders … by Prof. Dr. Imre Demhardt

Although the ancient Mediterranean cultures knew the northern edge of Africa and the Portuguese uncovered its coastal outlines in the fifteenth century, the geography and history of the hinterlands remained rumoured about but seriously explored only since the late eighteenth century. After sketching the physical geography and introducing to post-discovery history of the African landscape, the presentation will focus on the colonial partition and drawing of boundary lines in the nineteenth century, the pivotal period to the modern map of the continent.

  • 10.45 – 11.00 - A Short Overview of Printed Maps of Africa from 1501 to 1800 by Prof. Em. Elri Liebenberg

Ever since the Portuguese rounded the Cape of Good Hope and reached India in 1498 the map of Africa has undergone various changes. The first map of the continent which represented the shape of Africa reasonably correct was the Cantino Planisphere of 1502. This presentation will give a short overview of printed maps of Africa from 1501 to 1800 by referring to three of the six key characteristics Richard Betz mentions in his seminal book entitled The Mapping of Africa (2007):

  • the depiction of the shape of the continent
  • information on the hydrography (the lakes and river systems)
  • the depiction of mountain ranges

Following Betz, these characteristics will be used to identify specific landmark maps which served as basic models for numerous maps of Africa by other and later cartographers well into the seventeenth century and beyond.

11.00 - 11.15 - Questions and answers ans short break

  • 11.15 – 11.45 - Sisyphus in the Desert: The Strange Story of the Unfinished Map Series of German South West Africa, 1892-1918 by Prof. Dr. Imre Demhardt

It was not before the second half of the nineteenth century that serious commercial and missionary interest for South West Africa took off. These explorations resulted in route and basic overview maps of a rugged and, for the most part, only sparsely populated region. The need for more detailed mapping arose with the Scramble for Africa, when German merchant Adolf Lüderitz in 1883 bought Angra Pequena, one of only two natural harbours on that coast. Along with subsequent acquisitions this nucleus was declared the Protectorate of German South West Africa, the first and soon most important German colony in Africa. After establishing the boundaries and succeeding in pacifying the indigenous communities, colonial penetration and valorisation was only possible based on topographical knowledge. The presentation will introduce highlights from the most active period in cartographic coverage of southwestern Africa, but also try to explain why the famed Preußische Landesaufnahme [Prussian Survey] failed to conclude any but one (large scale) series – and why this torso still was unsurpassed until the 1970s …

  • 11.45 – 12.15 - The Cartography of the South African Diamond Fields, 1871 to 1876 by Prof. Em. Elri Liebenberg

It has long been known that South Africa is a leading producer of high-quality gem diamonds and that diamonds have played an important role in the history of the country. This presentation will deal with the cartography involved in the struggle for the possession of the diamond fields and how a doctored map was used by the British Government to expropriate the diamond fields from the legitimate ownership of the Orange Free State in 1873 and to annex the area then called Griqualand West as British territory. Attention will also be given to the territorial disputes which continued and the eventual settlement with the Free State of 1876.

12.15 - 12.30 - Questions and answers

12.30 – 14.30 - Lunch in the Museum Bistro (optional and paying; EUR 52.00 for a three course menu with drinks; to be paid on site)

  • 14.30 – 17.00 - Exploring Africa with Ancient Maps. In the afternoon, a selection of maps from the collection of the Museum will be presented by Wulf Bodenstein, volunteer curator of this collection, author of Exploring Africa with Ancient Maps, (2017 – also available in French and Dutch translations) and founder of the Brussels Map Circle.

This viewing of the maps will take place in alternating groups, to ensure good visibility of the maps to all. While waiting their turn to see the maps, participants are free to visit the newly refurbished museum at their leisure as they will be given a free entrance ticket for the museum for the day. Beside the two famous wall maps of the Belgian Congo, they can discover some of its 27 collections covering various facets of Central Africa, from pre-history until current day life: ethnography, history, art, religion and traditions, landscape and biodiversity, mineralogy, music, etc.


  • Royal Museum for Central Africa / AfricaMuseum, Leuvensesteenweg 13
    Tervuren, Belgium (3080)


  • Saturday, December 07, 2019


  • Pierre Parmentier
    courriel : info [at] bimcc [dot] org

Reference Urls

Information source

  • Pierre Parmentier
    courriel : info [at] bimcc [dot] org


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Mapping Africa », Study days, Calenda, Published on Monday, September 16, 2019, https://doi.org/10.58079/13dr

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