Drawing the Line: Rare maps and prints
This exhibition showcases historic maps and prints of the areas that make up Pakistan, along with the neighbouring territories of Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, India and China. While these areas no longer fall within the territorial scope of Pakistan, many of its inner boundaries, such as those demarcating the provinces of Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or the semi independent states of Bahawalpur, Khairpur, Swat, Dir, Chitral and Hunza, that have been integrated into Pakistan, remain intact.
The displays span five hundred years, from the date of the first printed map of the subcontinent in the 1480s, to the survey maps of the 1940s. This period may be extended by 1500 years or so to 325 BC, when Alexander and his army travelled along the Indus from Chitral down to the Arabian Sea, and provided us with the first reliable topography of the coastline of Sindh and Baluchistan. Within these parameters, the exhibition captures a five century old cartographic history of the region.
Although maps are ever present in literature, they are as functional in our day to day lives, as they are evocative in our imaginations. For several thousand years, they have plotted celestial bodies in the night skies, charted paths for transporting merchandise and detailed routes to guide travellers. But far from being merely a tool for navigation, maps are as much a visual art form as a device designed to lead us from one place to another. The maps in the exhibition are the cumulative bequest of countless mariners, travellers, pilgrims, merchants, soldiers and administrators, both local and foreign, who spent their lives exploring this part of the world.
The exhibition is presented in eleven sections and features over ninety rare and beautiful maps and prints, including the seminal Decima Asie Tabula, first published in 1486, and James Rennel’s 1788 Map of Hindoostan, or the Mogul Empire. In addition, there are documentary films on the Silk Road and classical mapmakers whose efforts, ultimately bound up with ideas of status and power, did not simply represent the world, they imagined it and crafted it out of the ideas and needs of their age.
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