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381 - Shoe World

May 12, 2009, 6:54 PM


Italy’s famously boot-like appearance might be what gave Emad Hajjaj the idea for this footwear-oriented world map. Hajjaj, a cartoonist for the Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad, manages to craft all major countries and continents into shoe-shapes – most of them endemic to the country or continent thus represented.

Russia, home of the galosh (see also entry #289) is made up of two brobdingnagian furry boots (one European and one Siberian, one imagines). Canada and Greenland are similarly furry and boot-like. Canada’s northern archipelago is represented by a craquelure of icy patches that together form the shape of a low boot.

South America, passionate about futbol, is decked out as a sports shoe decorated, for good measure, with a football. Mexico and India also seem shaped like locally worn footwear. Nice touch: the Baja California peninsula doubles as an elongated heel, while India’s shoetip is decorated with a pompon – i.e. Sri Lanka. The US is, of course, a cowboy boot. Alaska is cleverly represented as the nose of Canada’s left shoe, but in the America’s cowboy motif.

The fair amount of single shoes floating around the world seas remind one of one of life’s less transcendental, yet reoccurring conundrums: why does one always see shoes by the wayside in singles and never in pairs? Islands thus represented are Iceland, Nova Zembla, a particularly well-turned out New Zealand (perhaps a Wellington boot?), a Japanese folklorically correct wooden shoe (the exact term eludes me), an unmatching pair representing the island of New Guinea, divided between the independent state of Papua New Guinea (eastern half) and Irian Jaya (Indonesia’s western half).

I doubt, however, whether any Saudi wears the laced boots representing the Arabian peninsula, and I don’t know whether slippers are really that popular on Madagascar. Quite appropriately, Italy is represented by the exact same shape it has in reality…

I am not familiar with the context of this particular cartoon, so I am unaware of any political double entendre. I can only speculate that, if such were the case, it might have something to do with the particular place of footwear in Arab social discourse. To be struck with the sole of a shoe is the ultimate insult – hence the images, at the end of the Baathist regime, of angry Iraqis hammering Saddam’s torn-down statue with their shoes.  Hence also the practice of throwing footwear at despised dignitaries, as happened to the former president Bush on his last visit to Iraq.

Many thanks for Dave Martucci for alerting me to this map, found here on Daryl Cagle’s fantastic Political Cartoonists Index. Mr Hajjaj’s work is also featured on the website www.mahjoob.com.


381 - Shoe World

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