Monday, December 31, 2012

Souvenirs Maps: Casual Everyday Encounters and Dérives.


Today, whilst venturing to prepare a coffee, I bumped into an object, or, it bumped into me, or my gaze, quietly lying there on the kitchen table, amidst the jars with coffee and sugar and salt and some other spices. The thing in question was an oversized ceramics spoon. On its neck is written 'Sicilia' in capital letters, and in the cavity, against an ultramarine blue background, a hybrid of map and landscape represents the geography of the above mentioned island. All over this small piece of thick paint standing for the big island, small signposts are spread, indicating the names of the major cities and historical localities, accompanied with tiny illustrations of important landmarks or just typical buildings. For example, above a resounding signpost for Etna spears a triangular form of a volcano. Around the mainland, animating the deep blue surface which refers to the Mediterranean Sea, there is a ship, a sailing boat, and a couple of fish. Just off the north-eastern coast, not forgotten, lie three small chunks of land standing for the sublime Aeolian Islands (which, in fact, are eight, but the three shown are actually the biggest ones). The entire landscape map, since it is made of multiple layers of ceramics, produces a relief of valleys and mountains (whose disposition does not, at all, correspond to the real physical features of the terrain). The object in itself is, of course, just a simple souvenir, and was probably a very annoying one for the one who dared to carry it, as fragile as it is, all the way from the sunny island to my snowy hometown. The result of this voyage, besides being a memento of the travels to that magical island, may be of richer consequences to the dwellers of my home, and not only them.

A couple of carefully placed features demonstrate the cartographic conscience of the maker of the artefact. In the lower right angle of the head of the spoon, just off the southern coast, the central symbol of Sicilian flag, a medusa head with three legs, called trinacria (a derivation of a symbol of ancient origin – triskelion), is surrounded by four powerful letters – N, E, S, O – standing for north, east, south, west. So, the spoon officially claims to be a map.

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