Narrative and deep mapping

Little chicken map
Narrative or deep mapping is a participatory process that tries to understand a place or situation through different people’s relationships with it. Iain Biggs describes deep mapping as an ‘essaying of place’, in which each person’s voice ‘retains its own distinct inflection within the harmonies and dissonances of the song as a whole’. The two examples here are The Atlas of Human Kindness, which is an ongoing participatory project, and The Stinging Nettle Atlas, which is a monograph about my childhood in East Kent.

THE ATLAS OF HUMAN KINDNESS is a collection of maps created by participating groups and individuals. I set up either a blank sheet of paper, or a map of a specific area relevant to the participants, and invite people to contribute their experiences of kindness to it. I have delivered Atlas sessions in a range of different situations including for staff CPD at Speedwell Nursery School and with the general public on the street at St Werburghs Arts Trail.

Acts of kindness are characterized by a concern about the rights, feelings and welfare of others, and these maps tell stories of where, when and how people have received such care. My inspiration for this project came from observing that most people are kind to each other when they have the opportunity, and these maps are made in resistance to those who would have us believe otherwise. The sessions are enjoyable and accessible and as the map of kindness develops people see each others’ stories, and add their own, encouraging them to feel more positive.
Detail-10Mapmakers-2Here are some of the stories of kindness that made up the maps

Remembering acts of kindness is an enjoyable and accessible activity that can connect people, encourage them to think positively about their neighbourhood, and help build community confidence. The Atlas of Human Kindness is is an ongoing project, so if you or your group would like to be involved please get in touch with me via the contact page.

The stories we tell about ourselves are constructed within the physical places in which they occur, and these geographies are a crucial part of our personal narratives. The Stinging Nettle Atlas is a collection of written and visual maps about my rural childhood on the North Downs in East Kent with my 5 sisters and explores themes of girlhood, memory, place and freedom.

The first map combines a specific memory of place with the hippocampus, a complex brain structure embedded deep within the temporal lobe. The hippocampus is thought by some to be involved in storing long-term memories and in making those memories resistant to forgetting.
Toasted sandwich

The second map is about keeping chickens.
Chicken map
Dad drives back from a battery near Folkestone. He carries a crate to the orchard and spills ten pullets into dazed sunshine. New feathers push through waxy pink skin and they soon learn how to scratch for worms, fluffing up into warm brown hens. We bring them buckets of layers mash, and find their eggs in the dusty barn. We make omelettes, and have eggs boiled, scrambled and baked in the oven.

Seasons pass. Dad and I step into the barn and close the door. He shows me how to hold her head in one hand and her neck in the other. I twist hard and pull, and her vertebrae gives way. ‘Click’ and she is gone.