Monday, February 28, 2011



One of the passing pleasures of making maps is the opportunity to see the most wondrous patterns in the landscape. You can see these in aerial photographs, but when the essence of the landforms is extracted through contours or river systems there's a purity that photos mask.
Look at these extraordinary Swartberg contours:

I'm sorry the blog doesn't allow me to put them up in more detail. Here are some Swartberg river systems:

And here's a real oddity - a map of the Central Cederberg as it was in 1651!

I want to see some fabric printed in these patterns - maybe the most gifted and creative Heather Moore could give it a shot? Heather? Visit Heather at .

Of course the landscape textures aren't only there in the macro-geography. All the following are textures from the extraordinarily rich Swartberg and Klein-Karoo. They make great background patterns, too:

That's all for the moment. Don't forget that the offer on Cederberg 9 maps still pertains: see blog below.

- Kaartman

Friday, February 4, 2011

Greatmen fatmen

Great men are almost always bad men ... There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it.
- Lord Acton

Acton, a prominent English historian, is also the same Engelsman who penned the famous quote about absolute power corrupting absolutely. He might have added that great men (or women) are almost always grossly overweight, especially in Africa.
I've never really undertood why so many self-serving politicians feel the need to overindulge themselves to the point of disgusting obesity; sadly, remarkably few seem to pay the penalty of heart attacks and bad chloresterol numbers, but maybe they get special dispensation for this. Or they can command the best doctors. Big men apparently need Big Bums.

Last week was a truly remarkable week, for events at completely opposite ends of the African continent. In the south, millions held their breath for the health of a leader who is rightfully the icon of their national freedom. He really was - is - a Good Great Man, much less of a paltry politician than the true Father of a Nation. Your long good health, Madiba!

At the other end of our continent, millions poured out upon the streets demanding the end of just another self-serving, self-appointed, overweight dictator who believes himself sanctified by the name of his office.
We won't go into what was was happening in the huge continent in between, though there were probably a few tense moments in a presidential palace or two.

What's all this got to do with mapmaking? Lots, actually. Maps have traditionally been amongst the most political of documents. European kings, princelings, dukes, earls and other bad great men won or lost kingdoms, principalities and fiefdoms over maps and mapmakers. Modern states overlorded by overweight megalomaniacs deliberately distort maps to secure their kingdoms - you should see the old USSR's road maps.

India, an ostensible democracy, forced Google Earth to fuzz out air photos of "sensitive" military facilities. Why? Not so that "enemy" states couldn't see them - you can be sure that Pakistan doesn't study India via Google Earth! - but no, so that their own citizens couldn't count the missiles. That's called democracy, hay. Great men ... BAD men. Liars, cheats, the whole bladdie lot.

We had to divert from mapping the Swartberg this week to attend to a crisis in the Cederberg, of which much more soon. There are lots more political things to say about the Swartberg, but we'll get to that.

In the meantime, if you think it's not all about geography, consider this. Two cities on almost exactly opposite sides of the planet, one facing a million-man march to displace a tinpot dictator, the other facing cyclone Yasi, said to be worse than Katrina. Can you name the only two cities on earth whose names begin with C A I R ... ?

Funny old world, hay.