In Langscape Magazine Articles

We Want to Map

September 30, 2017

by Barbara Dovarch

people mapping

Valenzuela City, Greater Manila. People building a realistic map of their settlement. Photo: Barbara Dovarch, 2013

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People mapping is a creative and serious game
Local knowledge and everyday experience are needed to play
There are no losers or winners, but roles and positions
There are no leaders or teachers; everyone is both expert and learner
There are no hierarchies, the main rule is respect
Every voice can be widely expressed and carefully heard

We want to map to be on the map
To make visible our invisible slums
To get recognition of our rights and dignify our lives
To lobby for land titles and consolidate our settlements . . .
To have a visual reference when we communicate, claim, contest, negotiate

We want to map to protect our territories
Through identifying vulnerabilities and potentials
We want to preserve our environmental resources
Cultural diversity and natural ecosystems
Indigenous structures and traditional customs

We want to map to save our planet
To provide holistic perspective for better strategies
To understand the effects of our own actions
To mitigate impacts of disastrous events . . .
Before Nature revolts one more time against irresponsible humans
We want to increase our awareness and resilience

We want to map to keep our identity
Prior to coping with any change or transformation in our neighborhood
We want to make visible its apparently disordered logics
Telling the narrative which characterizes our physical and social contexts
The related sense of belonging and spontaneous place-making practices

We want to map to move around freely
We want to identify spaces where to invent our intrepid games
We want to give a hand to our classmates while going to school by ourselves in busy mornings
We want to draw our routes, our road signs, and even our ban signs
We want to be free and safe in our own cities

We want to map to reach communities and governments
To provide a catalyst for interaction and facilitate platforms of dialogue
To give space to conflict while finding possible solutions together
To discuss and make decision jointly
To easily represent our shared designs and plans

While making maps, people deconstruct their reality to build a new inspiring knowledge
Diversity is revealed, aspirations are unleashed, and possible futures become visible
Looking from a bird’s-eye view, the bonds between natural features and cultural values emerge
A jam mapping session evolves, where the instruments are people voices . . .
And the musics are pieces of Earth.

Mappers’ voices are those of slum dwellers in India, Kenya, Brazil, and the Philippines; inhabitants of peri-urban areas in Vietnam; Indigenous groups in Easter Island; local communities and government officials in Samoa and Nauru; neighbors in Spain; children in India and Italy.

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Read the full story by Barbara Dovarch.

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