A Cartographic History of North Africa

Richard Lobban, professor emeritus of anthropology.

Richard Lobban, professor emeritus of anthropology.


Rhode Island College is home to an exhibit that traces the fictions and realities manifested in the maps of North Africa.

The exhibit, titled “Mapping North Africa: A Cartographic History, 16th-19th Centuries,” will be displayed in the main lobby of the Adams Library until Dec. 31 and will move to the Bannister Gallery in February. It is composed of 17 maps from the extensive map collection of Richard Lobban, RIC professor emeritus of anthropology.

“Each map is an original and hand painted in watercolor,” Lobban said. “So, in many ways, each map is a unique piece of art.”

Arranged chronologically, the 17 maps show how the cartographic topography of North Africa transformed over the centuries from fantastical depictions into accurate pieces. “Many early maps were made simply for aesthetic purposes,” Lobban said. “For that reason, though beautiful, they were inaccurate.”

Following the exhibit at the Adams Library, Lobban will have more maps from his collection featured in an exhibit titled “Mapping West Africa, Cape Verde and the Slave Trade” at the Rhode Island Historical Society and the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. At the end of January, maps from Lobban’s collection will return to RIC for an exhibit in the Bannister Gallery.

Lobban also presented a lecture under the same name and topic as the exhibit on North Africa as part of the 2013 Adams Library Fall Lecture Series. The lecture preceded the display.

Lobban is a noted anthropologist on African history and culture. He has written many books on Sudan, Cape Verde and Ancient and Medieval Africa. Published earlier this year, his book titled “Historical Dictionary of the Sudan,” which he co-authored with wife Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, RIC professor emeritus of anthropology, and Robert Kramer, history professor at St. Norbert College, was named one of the Choice Outstanding Academic Titles of 2013.

Lobban is also the founder and executive director of the Sudan Studies Association and an adjunct professor in African studies for the United States Navy.