Picture those seventeenth-century maps of white Australia with names like Terra Australis and New Holland. They appear ill-formed, misshapen, like an embryonic blob sliding to the bottom of a sphere. Yet at their inception, those maps were plausible cartographic tracings of how a ship would circumnavigate the perimeter of a land mass so as to deduce its continental form.
To the modernized eye of white Australia, those maps are wrong, quaintly so. Not because their cartographic impulse nullified the extant territories inhabited by indigenous people, but because white Australia has had its ratified shape burnt into its collective retina. Its fusion of continent, map and logo sums up Australia as a mass – an island to itself; an identifiable shape; an ideogram prompting recognition; a brand promoting jingoistic consumption. It encourages Australians to perceive this thing called ‘Australia’ as a whole to which one’s partial self can be attached and attributed.
Philip Brophy: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Prologue, Reading Maps, page 1
2008, Currency Press
Girt By Sea is an ongoing collection by Sean Rafferty