Yinka Shonibare, ‘Creatures of the Mappa Mundi - Cicone Gentes’ - (sketch)

Meadow Arts commission, 2018 for Hereford Cathedral.

Yinka Shonibare, ‘Creatures of the Mappa Mundi -Monoculi’ - (sketch)

Meadow Arts commission, 2018 for Hereford Cathedral.

Creatures of the Mappa Mundi

Meadow Arts commission 2018 at Hereford Cathedral

Internationally celebrated artist Yinka Shonibare creates new quilt artworks for Hereford Cathedral, commissioned by Meadow Arts.

“Illustrated on the map are various creatures, natural and unnatural, and 'Monstrous Strangers' from all over the medieval world.

Alongside the creatures are drawn an array of strange and wonderful people, both real and unreal. These depictions are likely to have been influenced by travellers’ exaggerated tales of dangerous foreign cultures. 32 outrageous peoples are illustrated, such as the Blemmye; a war-like race of people with no heads, and facial features in their chests. Sciapods or Monoculi, are also found, tales of these scary beings who had just a giant single foot included theories on how they were able to move quickly on their one leg and they were believed to use their large foot to shield themselves from the sun.

This show is an exploration of two of the most pressing concerns of our time, environmental protection and immigration.

Inspired by the ability of the Mappa Mundi to still be reflecting our contemporary concerns of fear of the stranger or “other” which often leads to xenophobia. The depictions of extinct creatures of legend are a reminder that we may yet become extinct if we do not take care of our environment.

The exhibition will contain a series of new wall hangings, depicting various creatures and strangers from the map.”

Yinka Shonibare, 2018


Supported by Herefordshire’s a Great Place, a Herefordshire Cultural Partnership cultural development project delivered by Rural Media. Great Place is co-funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery, with support from Historic England.

Yinka Shonibare

Yinka Shonibare MBE (RA) was born in 1962 in London and moved to Lagos, Nigeria at the age of three. He returned to London to study Fine Art, first at Byam School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College) and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA.

Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. His trademark material is the brightly coloured ‘African’ batik fabric he buys in London. This type of fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence.

Shonibare was a Turner prize nominee in 2004 and was also awarded the decoration of Member of the ‘Most Excellent Order of the British Empire’ or MBE, a title he has added to his professional name. Shonibare’s notable commissions include ‘Gallantry and Criminal Conversation’ at Documenta 11, Kassel, in 2002; Venice Biennale; ‘Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle’ for the Fourth Plinth at Trafalgar square in 2010; ‘Globe Head Ballerina’ for the Royal Opera House, 2012. Solo exhibitions include the MCA Sydney; Brooklyn Museum, New York and the Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC. He was elected as a Royal Academician by the Royal Academy, London in 2013.

Related Exhibitions