When you ask a local for directions, most often what you get is a narrative: you will cross this street and turn left near the hospital, where you will walk straight until you see a large red sign… A Valletta 2018 project aims to capture this lived experience of geographical space in maps, drawn by people who roam around the mapped areas for one or another reason. After all, the earliest maps were ‘story’ maps. Cartographers were artists who mingled knowledge with supposition, memory and fears. Their maps described landscapes, populations and events, enabling travelers to plot a route as well as to experience a story.
These Subjective Maps will be distributed to the public over the coming days. The maps are a result of workshops that have been taking place in six localities over the past 18 months: Valletta, St Paul’s Bay and the surrounding area, Ħamrun, Birżebbuġa, Gżira and Victoria. Participants shared stories about their relationship with their locality through drawings of personal maps, experimenting with maps on a paper clock and on a balloon.
Yet the idea was not only to play around with one’s individual subjective perception. The maps are for sharing – they allow others to view each locality through the eyes of the participants – Maltese natives and foreigners. Every corner is filled with memories and wishes and every fork in the road becomes a point of convergence across generations, ethnic groups and languages.
The personalised maps capture places that are important to the participants, along with their dreams and wishes. Wishes vary from more greenery, cleaner air and less traffic, more pedestrian zones and more awareness about air and noise pollution, to a cemetery so that they can be buried in the town they were raised in and love. Through the workshops, people came together to discuss knowledge, supposition, memory and fears and eventually produced maps that can be used by others to visit and navigate the town.
Subjective Maps has attracted community members from various ethnic backgrounds, some of which have been born and raised in their locality, while others have only been living there for a few months. As such, the maps promise discovery and plenty of surprises In the same map, people can discover stories from Maltese, Thai, Austrian and Egyptian participants, who have all spoken about the area they share together every day, including the same shops they use and the same bus stops where they wait for the bus to go to work. The participants’ daily routes, dreams and relationships meet on these maps.