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100 Days of Something: 96

On the 30th of July 2000 I took a walk through Alexandra township with one of its residents – the artist Bongi Dhlomo-Mautloa. From recordings made over a 24 hour period I put together a 60 minute soundscape documenting a day in the life of the township.

At the time I made a small hand-drawn map of the various locations at which the sound recordings had been made. That was in an era before the advent of Google Maps, and since then I’ve often thought of how our awareness of our surroundings has changed along with the ubiquity of those maps and the satellite imagery they’re based on.

The satellite images, as impressive as they are in their detail, are still taken from some distance, and drones have recently opened up for a birds eye view that’s a little closer to our homes. The photographer Johnny Miller has put together Unequal Scenes – a collection of photographs capturing drones eye views that highlight the stark inequalities of adjacent South African neighbourhoods.1

The contrast between Alexandra and Sandton makes for one of the sets of photographs, and it is precisely that contrast that Bongi set out to draw attention to with an installation at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown back in the year 2000. It was there that I first met her and it was the installation that provided the impetus for the soundscape project.

I’ve been meaning to update the page for A Walk with Bongi through Alex on my site, partly with the addition of some up to date satellite imagery – which is one of the reasons I’ve been taking a closer look at Mapbox. Here’s a satellite view covering the area of my original hand-drawn map.


  1. Unequal Scenes has also been covered by the BoingBoing, The Guardian, and CNN

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100 Days of Something: 95

I’ve been taking a closer look at Mapbox. Although I was able to set up the Spyo BIRD locations fairly easily, taking a look at how to generate static maps, for example, has taken a little more time. Mapbox is a sophisticated platform with incredible possibilities – the downside is that there are many paths to get lost on, especially with the added complexity that comes with distinguishing between the new and classic versions of Mapbox Studio.

The main thing to clarify for myself has been the difference between the ‘Styles’ one can edit in the new web-based Mapbox Studio and the locations and image pop-ups that can be added using the online Mapbox Editor. While the data for those markers can be downloaded as a geoJSON file and then uploaded and added to the ‘Style’ one is working on in Mapbox Studio, that isn’t the place to add pop-ups with text, sound, and images, for example. The edited ‘Style’ forms a base map on top of which interactions such as markers and pop-ups can be added using the Mapbox GL JS or ‘classic’ Mapbox.js JavaScript libraries, when implemented on the web.

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101 Words – 098

Archie Archambault makes Maps from the Mind – rather than relying on GPS, he aims at “simplifying structures and neighbourhoods in the most efficient and beautiful way”. What interests me is the focus they place on how we experience spaces rather than aiming at some kind of “objective representation”. They got me thinking about the representation of events in our minds – how certain aspects might take on more importance than others. They also got me thinking about the representation of musical forms – how particular musical events might fill more space in our mental representations of them than the actual durations they fill.

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