The Literary Map of Africa, hosted by Ohio State University (https://library.osu.edu/literary-map-of-africa/map), is one of the most comprehensive lists of author’s from the planet’s largest continent. Originally created by Miriam Conteh-Morgan between 2007-2009 the database connected to the map contains over 1,000 entries for African authors, sorted by their home country.
The map itself, which is a static image with multi-colored countries in the style of a paper map, serves as a visual interface allowing users to interact with the database of authors. Clicking on a country brings up a list of the writers, whose names are also active links.
Each writer’s page contains basic information: years of birth and death where applicable; a brief biography; and lists of accomplishments, such as works and prizes. Not surprisingly with so many entries, many do not contain complete information. However, for a continent full of diverse writers who have often been overlooked by Western readers, the map remains an important collection of information.
From a technical standpoint, the map has similar features to those we have seen in other, especially static, maps. Unfortunately it is another map that seems to have been created largely through the drive of a single individual who, with the help of others, was able to pull together a great deal of information but the project did not continue to grow into its full potential.
During my research into existing book and literary maps, I noticed this pattern over-and-over again, and with every new example I shuddered a little, fearful that my own endeavor would end up the same way. It may still: while there seems to be recurring interest in creating maps connected to literature, despite many different approaches a sustaining community never seems to grow around the projects.
Have you ever contributed to a collective mapping project? What about a similar community created project? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below or by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.