inadequacy of spatial fixation in a dynamic landscape inhabited by people who have more urgent concerns than their representation in another system
by Yigru Zeltil

On behalf of my staff, I wish to apologize for the inaccuracies our map suffers from.
Dear people from Soutarom, it is true that you live not at 13°18’43.8″N 14°30’33.1″E, but at 13°19’07.1″N 14°30’38.1″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Bayorom, it is true that you live not at 13°17’00.0″N 15°18’60.0″E, but at 13°17’33.2″N 15°19’05.5″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kangara Touomousari, it is true that you live not at 13°12’00.5″N 15°31’47.9″E, but at 13°12’25.5″N 15°31’58.4″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Moussarom, it is true that you live not at 13°16’04.7″N 14°31’51.0″E, but at 13°15’50.8″N 14°32’25.3″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Nguelea, it is true that you live not at 13°16’04.7″N 14°31’51.0″E, but at 13°15’48.5″N 14°33’38.3″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kamimi, it is true that you live not at 13°17’36.9″N 14°37’48.4″E, but at 13°18’11.3″N 14°37’59.2″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kangara, it is true that you live not at 13°11’60.0″N 15°28’59.6″E, but at 13°11’17.9″N 15°28’06.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kongiklia, it is true that you live not at 13°09’36.0″N 15°27’00.0″E, but at 13°09’13.2″N 15°27’02.9″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Asankéri, it is true that you live not at 13°08’00.1″N 15°32’59.9″E, but at 13°07’38.6″N 15°32’59.6″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Am Belito, it is true that you live not at 12°55’00.2″N 15°05’59.9″E, but at 12°55’28.3″N 15°05’46.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Misérié, it is true that you live not at 13°05’01.1″N 15°27’59.9″E, but at 13°04’44.6″N 15°28’34.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Bamban, it is true that you live not at 13°06’00.2″N 15°10’59.8″E, but at 13°06’09.7″N 15°09’58.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Doum Doum, it is true that you live not at 13°12’00.1″N 15°23’00.0″E, but at 13°11’45.0″N 15°23’14.4″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Al Bout, it is true that you live not at 13°08’01.8″N 15°23’59.9″E, but at 13°08’04.3″N 15°24’15.1″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Mahiouwadji, it is true that you live not at 13°06’01.1″N 15°15’60.0″E, but at 13°06’37.4″N 15°15’30.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Nga, it is true that you live not at 13°14’02.2″N 15°14’00.3″E, but at 13°13’59.6″N 15°14’13.6″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Boulongwa, it is true that you live not at 13°21’04.1″N 15°12’59.2″E, but at 13°21’22.2″N 15°13’52.8″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kaira Fété, it is true that you live not at 13°17’21.8″N 15°06’59.4″E, but at 13°17’31.1″N 15°07’08.2″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kangalom, it is true that you live not at 13°15’14.3″N 14°58’35.0″E, but at 13°14’54.0″N 14°58’27.1″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Boua, it is true that you live not at 13°23’00.1″N 15°05’60.0″E, but at 13°22’46.1″N 15°06’29.2″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Boulou, it is true that you live not at 13°35’00.3″N 15°01’59.9″E, but at 13°35’00.7″N 15°01’40.5″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Ouaidougoula, it is true that you live not at 13°33’36.6″N 14°58’47.7″E, but at 13°33’52.4″N 14°59’14.2″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Dougoularom, it is true that you live not at 13°33’36.7″N 14°55’48.1″E, but at 13°33’53.0″N 14°55’27.8″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Isséïrom Souya Déley, it is true that you live not at 13°28’00.0″N 15°02’60.0″E, but at 13°28’30.0″N 15°03’06.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Ibroum, it is true that you live not at 13°21’00.8″N 14°59’56.3″E, but at 13°21’17.1″N 14°59’41.5″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Lafia, it is true that you live not at 13°19’08.0″N 14°53’20.4″E, but at 13°19’32.2″N 14°53’13.5″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Mélia, it is true that you live not at 13°18’28.6″N 14°54’40.6″E, but at 13°18’18.1″N 14°54’34.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Madigil, it is true that you live not at 13°23’01.1″N 14°55’56.0″E, but at 13°23’05.6″N 14°56’18.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Yongo, it is true that you live not at 13°27’43.3″N 14°54’15.0″E, but at 13°27’26.2″N 14°54’26.1″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Karémirom, it is true that you live not at 13°23’00.2″N 14°49’00.0″E, but at 13°23’05.6″N 14°49’12.9″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Ango, it is true that you live not at 13°29’49.7″N 14°50’35.7″E, but at 13°30’17.0″N 14°50’25.4″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kaya, it is true that you live not at, but at 13°33’00.8″N 14°49’47.7″E, but at 13°31’47.3″N 14°50’42.2″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Yakoua, it is true that you live not at 13°27’35.6″N 14°43’40.0″E, but at 13°27’51.6″N 14°44’01.1″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Gomirom, it is true that you live not at 13°19’07.8″N 14°36’08.4″E, but at 13°19’39.3″N 14°36’21.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Madi Kimerom, it is true that you live not at 13°30’32.5″N 14°43’48.5″E, but at 13°30’00.7″N 14°43’35.6″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kika, it is true that you live not at 13°22’48.8″N 14°41’59.6″E, but at 13°22’41.3″N 14°42’19.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kout Kou, it is true that you live not at 13°29’01.2″N 14°38’59.8″E, but at 13°29’34.9″N 14°39’02.8″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Bla Koleni, it is true that you live not at 13°47’44.9″N 13°49’56.0″E, but at 13°48’14.5″N 13°49’35.3″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Ngara, it is true that you live not at 13°41’47.3″N 13°52’19.8″E, but at 13°41’19.8″N 13°52’22.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Firia, it is true that you live not at 13°34’24.8″N 13°53’24.9″E, but at 13°34’14.8″N 13°53’53.4″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Tch Ali, it is true that you live not at 13°35’39.1″N 13°54’25.1″E, but at 13°35’54.0″N 13°54’14.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Tchero Kotou, it is true that you live not at 13°31’53.7″N 13°52’45.7″E, but at 13°32’28.6″N 13°54’13.4″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kantanarom, it is true that you live not at 13°32’45.4″N 13°55’13.6″E, but at 13°33’03.2″N 13°55’09.1″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Ngougoundom, it is true that you live not at 13°34’50.1″N 13°59’01.9″E, but at 13°34’39.4″N 13°58’37.6″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Ndougoundom Gidi, it is true that you live not at 13°34’39.0″N 13°58’53.9″E, but at 13°33’44.8″N 13°59’21.0″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Dear people from Kaoudjirom Koura, it is true that you live not at 13°26’20.4″N 13°51’28.3″E, but at 13°26’27.1″N 13°52’14.7″E. Thank you for your patience, we have corrected the mistake.
Unfortunately, all our charity belongs to us. Do you wish to receive the cusmostemer service receipt?

follow-up mail:

On behalf of my staff, I wish to apologize for the inaccuracies our map suffers from.
The latest corrections are as following:
Dear people from Bayorom, you may now find yourselves at 13°16’55.6″N 15°17’31.9″E.
Dear people from Kangara, you may now find yourselves at 13°12’29.7″N 15°28’27.2″E.
Dear people from Kongiklia, you may now find yourselves at 13°10’06.7″N 15°27’09.6″E.
Dear people from Am Belito, you may now find yourselves at 12°54’58.0″N 15°05’39.6″E.
Dear people from Yongo, you may now find yourselves at
13°24’14.0″N 14°51’54.0″E.
Dear people from Kaya, you may now find yourselves at
13°33’32.7″N 14°50’25.6″E.
Dear people from Yakoua, you may now find yourselves at
13°25’06.6″N 14°44’40.8″E.
Dear people from Madi Kimerom, you may now find yourselves at 13°31’09.9″N 14°43’56.1″E.
Thank you all for your patience!

[A necessary explanation: Lake Chad is among the regions of the world which suffer the most from climate change, with around 17 million people affected by displacement, malnutrition, insecurity and violent extremism (https://reliefweb.int/report/nigeria/lake-chad-snapshot-issue-8-october-november-2018).

As early as 1982, an Italian engineering company had designed a plan involving the construction of a canal which would fill up Lake Chad with water from the Congo River basin. The so-called Transaqua plan is barely now, after support from PowerChina, scheduled for a funding campaign, yet the project will be challenged by environmental campaigners, social and military unrest (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43500314), as well as by member states of the Congo-Ubangi-Sangha Basin International Commission, “expressed concern that the project would reduce the energy potential of the Inga hydroelectric dam, would affect navigation on the Ubangi and Congo rivers and would reduce fish catches on these rivers” (https://books.google.com/books?id=1KBP7QbalX0C&pg=PA266&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false).

A couple of years ago, disturbed by the situation there and honestly fascinated by the eerie satellite imagery of the retreating lake, I thought I should zoom in on this landscape. Only from certain heights, Google Maps revealed undistinguished names of villages (there are only a few towns around the region), islands and peninsulas.

Human life may be so precarious and discrete that, in some places, there are barely any traces visible to the satellite: a few paths through the dust and the water, cell-like structures – of imperfect ovoid or rectangular shapes, sketchy like most natural actualizations of geometry – made up of a kind of fence and a kind of housing. At times, these structures managed to form grids and streets.

I was intrigued by the fact that the Google Maps database contains some of the names of these countless settlings, yet, either because of poor calibration or, I suppose, because of seasonal migrations or other such reason, the names are not always aligned with what on the satellite appears to be their actual locations – and even when they are, by clicking on the names, a poorly-drawn (automatically-drawn?) shape would be overlaid onto the village, a spatial fixation that might not even correspond to the spatial understanding of the inhabitants…

Extremely few, if any, locals have any access to smartphones and Internet, and this is certainly not the kind of geographic space with which anyone at Google might bother in particular, but I tried to imagine what if anyone on either sides cared, hence my gesture of collecting the coordinates of the misplaced names and the coordinates of where the displaced villages seem to actually be located (“now”, or according to the most recent satellite imagery).

These sets of coordinates formed the basis of this conceptual poem that also had to carry a certain awareness of the situation: if the villagers and the regional authorities have any need of rigorously identifying places, they might orientate themselves differently than through Google Maps, and any update to these coordinates might come too late anyway.

There is further irony in choosing the form a pseudo-letter of apologies, as these are represented through a copy-pasted phrase structure: the letter might as well be programmed, while the data collecting itself – in other words, the machine-like part – was pursued by me manually.

Furthermore, I have to acknowledge here the inadequacy of such a flattening gesture, in the tradition of conceptual poetry that tends to objectify and render real histories, places and voices (with different and much more vital matters) to interchangeable data that I have manipulated to dubious needs – why should I earn symbolic credit publishing such a poem?

On one hand, I like (or I am fooling myself) to believe I could excuse this silly exploitation by annexing this post-scriptum. On the other hand, I am staring right now at 13°26’20.1″N 14°57’20.9″E and there is, at some distance from an apparent body of water, a floating blue word, it says: No.]

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