It’s time to get going with blog posts on this shiny (and almost finished) new website! Last week I had much fun working with students at The Aconbury Centre in Hereford. Meadow Arts asked me to work with the centre to create a textiles piece based on the Mappa Mundi, and the fabulous Yinka Shonibare exhibition currently on display at the Cathedral.
Hereford Cathedral is home to the Hereford Mappa Mundi, one of the world’s unique medieval treasures. Measuring 1.59 x 1.34 metres (5’2” by 4’4”), the map is constructed on a single sheet of vellum (calf skin). Scholars believe it was made around the year 1300 and shows the history, geography and destiny of humanity as it was understood in Christian Europe in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.
The illustrations within the Mappa Mundi also reflect the unknown – the world of myth, the supernatural and cultures not yet understood. Classical legends, bible stories and common folklore are represented on the map.
Yinka Shonibare has reinterpreted the creatures on the map to highlight topics such as race and migration. I love how he does this whilst using bright colours and a spirit of playfulness. The work was designed by studio Shonibare, and stitched together by community groups facilitated by artists including Jill Impey.
Working with Aconbury Centre staff, we decided to centre our map on Hereford (the centre of the student’s world). We stitched on roads, rivers and hybrid creatures designed by the students. I so enjoy working with young people outside of conventional school settings (such as The Switch Project, who Jamila and I have recently done a project with), there is so much more time and space for creativity and each person gets more attention, more room to express themselves. One student decided he loved stitching so much he wanted to give up his breaktime to carry on!
We embellished the map with buttons and beads, embroidering the edges of routeways (rivers and roads). As we added animals the whole thing came to life.
We also added place names, both local ones and places the students knew of.
The centre staff and students were delighted with the final piece and may even carry on stitching into it (as these things can evolve indefinitely). I look forward to creating further work based on maps with groups and in my new studio.