This week, we watched a video on Vasco da Gama by PBS Education, which was part of their series called Explorers: Age of Encounter. Apart from Zheng He and the Arab navigator in Malindi, who else is missing from these Eurocentric narratives? Hint: Watch the video on Magellan!
Attempting to steer clear from the eurocentric explorer, it was challenging to find information on non-European explorers of that time period. Watching the Magellan video did not prove useful in helping me identify these non-European explorers. Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who could not get his expedition funded so he took his talents to Spain where their desire for an alternate route to Malukas without having to go through areas controlled by the Portuguese. However, it does not talk about the non-European explorers of the time.
Navigating through the PBS website, I happened upon an explorer by the name of Ibn Battuta of Tangier. He was a Muslim Moroccan explorer who traveled to parts of Africa, Asia, and Spain from 1325 to 1354.
While he did not discover unknown lands. He is known as the “traveler of Islam”; having traveled 75,000 miles and interacted with least 60 rulers across the areas he visited.
He visited almost every Muslim country and a number of non-Muslim ones.
I found it frustrating at how challenging it was to find information on non-European explorers- at how when I search for explorer during the Age of Encounter, I get results for the top 10 European Explorers or the most important explorers, all of which were European. It paints a complex story about history is told differently from different perspectives and personally I feel that, much like history, art is not an exception to this.