Introduction to the BU African Studies/Afriterra “Mapping Africa” Workshop

Led by Elsa Wiehe, Tim Weiskel, Gerald Rizzo and Lucia Lovison-Golob, this unique workshop will present tools and tips to assist inquiry and help teachers and their students to gain online access to high-resolution digital images of rare, original historical maps as primary sources. The focus will be upon European imperial powers in Africa from the 16th to the 19th centuries. A visit to the Afriterra map archive to consult the original maps themselves is included as part of the workshop.

Take the opportunity to explore individual components of the workshop before it meets formally.

For more details see:

Mapping Africa: Using Original Maps to Navigate Africa’s Imperial History

You can explore the different components of the “Mapping Africa” workshop individually.

For example, you can learn about the features of the Boston University African Studies Outreach Program at:

You can explore the Afriterra Online Africa Map Library at:

and you can learn of the activities of the “Africa Map Circle” at:

See related:

* * * * * * * *

The music performed in the background for this short introductory presentation about mapping African history is the first movement of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, also known as the Double Violin Concerto (Doppelkonzert für zwei Violinen).   According to Wikipedia, it “… is one of the most famous works by Johann Sebastian Bach and considered among the best examples of the work of the late Baroque period.”

“Bach may have written the concerto between 1717 and 1723 when he was the Kapellmeister at the court of Anhalt-Köthen, Germany,[2] though the work’s surviving performance materials were created for the concert series that Bach ran as the Director of the Collegium Musicum in Leipzig and are dated c. 1730–31.[3] Later in 1739, in Leipzig, he created an arrangement for two harpsichords, transposed into C minor, BWV 1062.[2][Wikipedia entry].

It should be noted, perhaps, that in addition to this double concerto, Bach wrote the Brandenburg Concertos during this period of his life as well.  These well-known concertos were “…a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721 (though they were probably composed earlier).”

The structure of patronage that financed the flourishing of art of the Baroque in early- and mid-18th century Europe is worth investigating in depth.  The Brandenburg families were dedicated to rebuilding the economic and cultural life of their realms after the devastating impact of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) in the 17th century.  At the same time some important figures in the Brandenburg family were known to have been engaged significantly in the slave trade along the Gold Coast region of West Africa during the period that Bach composed these famous compositions — which as some observers have pointed out “… are widely regarded as some of the best orchestral compositions of the Baroque era.”

Further attention to the sources of wealth, the structure of artistic patronage and the flourishing of significant new achievements in the “art” of European cartography deserves more extensive research.  Concerning specifically the Brandenburg connection to the slave trade on the Gold Coast see:


A spirited performance of the Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins is presented by the young musicians of the Netherlands Bach Society.  See:

The talent and skill of these youthful soloists is striking, demonstrating their mastery of technique and artistry of the most moving aspects of Baroque music.

It is not clear, however, that their deep understanding of this art form extends to an awareness of how it was produced or the structure and financing of the Brandenburg patronage that made Bach’s work possible in the Baroque period.

Perhaps equally troubling is that very few people among audiences for this music over the several hundred years it has come to be treasured around the world have ever been troubled by these kinds of questions.  Indeed, most people have never contemplated these disturbing relationships because our institutions of education have failed to instruct us about how to perceive and investigate the profound interconnections between the socio-economic dimensions of human affairs and their cultural manifestations over time.

* * * *

Additional information has been compiled about the fame and fortunes of  Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg — under whose patronage the slave castle, Grossfriedrichsburg, was initially built in 1683 and 1684.  In addition, there is further information about his youngest son: Margrave Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg-Schwedt.  He is perhaps best known in history as the dignitary to whom Johann Sebastian Bach presented “Six Concerts à plusieurs instruments”  in 1721 — which subsequently became known collectively as the Brandenburg concertos — “…widely regarded as some of the best orchestral compositions of the Baroque era” in Europe.

See related:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s