Dreading the map was an original art installation by Sonia E. Barrett which was installed in the Map Room of the Royal Geographical Society building during March 2021 as the third in a series of artistic provocations as part of the Creative Approaches to Race and Insecurity in the Caribbean and UK (CARICUK) project.
Using carefully curated paper maps of the Caribbean and UK that had been shredded into strips, including surplus maps from the Society's Collections, the artist and several Black women co-creators used African-Caribbean hair styling techniques to plait the shredded maps. Culturally, such female spaces of hair styling are filled with discussions around self- and community-care, and this Black woman-centred cultural practice juxtaposed the wood-lined walls, globes and portraits of white explorers that typify the building with the music and laughter of Black women talking and working together. As a response to the Society’s stated desire to reflect on their history and their building, this was a filling of the space with Black women’s language, perspectives and practices, a reimagining of what the space can and should mean.
Gennaro Ambrosino's film, embedded below and also available here, displays footage of the installation alongside interviews with the artist Sonia Barrett, and with CARICUK's Principal Investigator, Dr Pat Noxolo, and Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Tia-Monique Uzor. There are also interviews with Map-lective member Lea Bematol, and staff from the Society, Dr Catherine Souch and Dr Sarah Evans.
You can find out more about Dreading the map here, and about the wider CARICUK project here.
Watch the short film Dreading the map (embedded below), and then answer the following questions (developed from CARICUK Learning Pack: Course 1 – the Caribbean and the UK)
What are the historic and contemporary connections that link the UK and the Caribbean?
What might artist Sonia E. Barratt mean by ‘colonial ease’?
How does the video support the notion that maps are problematic?
If you are undertaking this activity as part of an in-person visit to the Society, how does Dreading the map alter your perception of the Map Room?
What do you think Dreading the map is trying to provoke and why is it an important intervention to understanding geographical knowledge production?
CARICUK: Creative Approaches to Race and In/security in the Caribbean and the UK was a year-long collaboration between artists and geography educators, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). It aimed to transform discussions about race in UK higher education institutions, by redefining race as an in/security.
Over a twelve-month period, CARICUK moved through three stages: provocations, participation and transformation. Three artistic provocations, designed to stimulate discussion about Caribbean and racialised in/securities, were each followed by public discussion events. An online learning pack for schools, about Caribbean and racialised in/securities, led into a large-scale arts participation and exhibition. Finally, three short films and a publishing experiment pushed towards institutional transformation.