Beryl Markham, Kenyan-born aviatrix and author, wrote, 'A map says to you read me carefully, follow me closely, doubt me not… I am the earth in the palm of your hand'.
On our never-ending quest to delight and surprise our guests the Angama family brainstormed, built, and filled to its brim maps of every description, our handsome Map Room. Set in the heart of the lodge together with the Photographic Studio, the swimming pool, the Safari Shop and Beading Studio, and the Fitness Room, we are delighted to introduce our latest guest experience.
‘Where the heck are we now?’ is something our guests never actually verbalise – not wanting to come across as amateur adventurers – but is written all over their faces on arrival in the Mara. Just imagine you have been on a 14-day safari – gorillas in Rwanda, the beauty of the Ngorongoro Crater, the endless plains of the mighty Serengeti and yet another flight plops you in yet another country and yet another game reserve and yet another lodge? It’s enough to boggle the mind. By the way, this is exactly how Africans feel when you abandon us in the heart of New York City – pure panic and bewilderment.
Film director Peter Greenway nailed it by saying, 'I've always been fascinated by maps and cartography. A map tells you where you've been, where you are, and where you're going – in a sense it's three tenses in one'.
At Angama we believe the most precious possessions we can share with our guests are our stories. Maps tell stories and have been doing so since the dawn of our ancestors as one of the oldest forms of human communication. There has probably always been a mapping impulse in human consciousness. Mapping – like painting – precedes written language and is ancient and widespread. Maps are one of the most important human inventions for millennia, allowing humans to explain, understand and navigate our way through the world.
The maps, Maasai artefacts, natural history books, skulls and old photographs you will find in our Map Room have been lovingly curated to give our guests a deeper insight into this fascinating corner of Africa. As you enter, you will see the impressive, distressed steel installation of a map of the Mara Triangle, where guests will spend their days on safari. It was designed by a renowned South African sculptor, Simon Bannister, who is the creative genius behind the steel portrait of Scarface that adorns the entrance to our boma, and brought to life by Angama's tentmaker extraordinaire, Jan Allan of ByDesign. Guests, especially our younger ones, have fun placing steel animal cut-outs showing where they were sighted whilst out on safari.
The eastern wall is our history wall. Holding pride of place is a map of the world from 1608 which was graciously shared by the Royal Geographic Society where the original still hangs today. These old maps of Africa tell the story of a continent whose fringes were discovered by early explorers but whose interior remained a secret for many centuries thereafter. The display on the right celebrates some of those early explorers whose discoveries and handwritten drawings and notes were transcribed by cartographers back in Europe and England, most of whom never left their homelands.
Tucked in next to the entrance hang black-and-white photographs of our favourite iconic Kenyan animals – the great tuskers Tim and Ahmed, Scarface of the Maasai Mara (and BBC’s Big Cat Diary) and Gertie the famous long-horned rhino from Amboseli. As they wander through the Map Room guests can browse through the library of natural history books, admire Maasai artefacts and pick up and peer into the collection of big cat skulls. Rolled up in two leather barrels are yet more maps – some old and printed on canvas, others laminated of modern East Africa, handy for onward travels.
And adorning a sweeping curved wall is the schoolroom-style map collection. Here our guests find one of our favourite maps drawn for the Map Room by cartographer Duncan Butchart. This map of the Great Rift Valley tells the ancient story of where our ancestors first stood on their hind legs and began their journey of discovery of planet Earth.
It all started right here.
'A map does not just chart, it unlocks and formulates meaning; it forms bridges between here and there, between disparate ideas that we did not know were previously connected'. - Reif Larsen
The Angama Map Room was made possible by a remarkable far-flung team. Heartfelt thanks to Seattle architects Daniel and Sandy (read Sandy’s delightful account of her Map Room journey here), London-based Peter who spent many hours digging through the archives of the RGS, Shan and Ty (at large somewhere in the US) for nursing the building of the Map Room through lockdown, Ali (Jozi) for putting all the maps into one beautiful display and Annemarie (Cape Town) for keeping a beady eye on the interior finishes.
Filed under: Inside Angama
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