Hereford Cathedral – Yinka Shonibare’s reinterpreted Mappa Mundi

19th March 2019

The creatures of Hereford Cathedral’s medieval Mappa Mundi have been reinterpreted for the 21st century by eminent artist, Yinka Shonibare, CBE.

In a unique working partnership with Hereford Cathedral and Meadow Arts, this leading artist has taken images from the Mappa Mundi as his starting point in a unique piece of work that tackles the very real 21st century issues of immigration and the environment.

Watch the video here.


Creatures of the Mappa Mundi explores what Shonibare refers to as:

“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.”

Shonibare’s exhibition contains a series of quilt artworks, depicting various creatures and strangers from the map using his trademark vibrant Dutch-wax fabrics. Each piece has been made with the help of different local community groups, including the Hereford College of Arts, Rose Tinted Rags (ECHO) & The Courtyard Creative Ageing Project.

Hereford Cathedral Librarian, Rosemary Firman, said:

“The Hereford Mappa Mundi has been a source of inspiration and wonder for over 700 years. It is always exciting for us to engage with new interpretations of the Map and we feel very privileged to be able to host Shonibare’s new artwork.”

Displayed next to the Cathedral’s Chained Library, the Hereford Mappa Mundi is the largest medieval world map to survive. One of its most remarkable features are its illustrations of strange people and animals drawn by artists from the exaggerated descriptions of travellers to far off lands, including camels, elephants and unicorns. The more human-like creatures are sometimes outrageous in form, like the Blemmye; a warrior race of people with no heads and facial features in their chests, or the Sciapods, a race with one giant leg and foot each.

Director of Meadow Arts, Anne de Charmant, says,

“Meadow Arts is thrilled to be working with Yinka Shonibare and delighted that he has found inspiration for a new project here in Hereford. “

Creatures of the Mappa Mundi is on display in Hereford Cathedral’s Mappa Mundi & Chained Library until 1 June 2019. Find out more here.

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.

Photos: thanks to Stefan Handy for Meadow Arts