"I want to make a Mappa Mundi for King’s school. Literally mapping the identity of the school through creative collaboration with the students, staff & alumni, of their sense of belonging: where they are from and how we can celebrate the different journeys that led them to come to the school here in Canterbury.
The first step is to ask any student, staff member or alumni that wishes to collaborate to produce an A4 drawing or painting that represents in map or flag form (or both) the place they think most represents where they feel they are from. This can be either a map or flag of a country, region, state, county or city. Whatever you do within that outline is up to you; A face in the shape of a place, abstract pattern, or veins of rivers, roads and railways.
Please refer to the examples of maps provided from around the world. As you can see some of them don’t seem like conventional maps or flags at all. Use your artistic imagination!"
Mappa Mundi means map of the world in Latin. Many of the surviving maps we call Mappa Mundi are from the medieval period in Europe but there are surviving examples from the Arab world, South Asia and the far East. What characterises them all is that they are incomplete, inaccurate and centre around the region from which and for whom they are made.
Maps are subjective things that only slowly become more accurate, more objective. They are about power, money, religion and above all they are about identity and ownership; about where you are from and where you wish to go: Whether by foot or horseback, boat or airliner, with an army or a ski group, maps help realise the intentions of their users.
A map depicts what we know… but also what we don’t know and the further back you go the more bizarre and eccentric maps appear to be, sometimes omitting entire continents and oceans. That is because a map can only tell us the limit of knowledge of any one time or place, it mirrors the person that makes it, their understanding of the world and their journeys within it… and, much like our everyday lives, they are constantly revised and changed as the people, identities, climate and politics are also in a continual state of change.
Take for example the great Mappa Mundi in the chain library of Hereford Cathedral. It depicts trade routes, paths of religious pilgrimage, the ways to navigate between the great royal courts and the great universities and centres of learning of Medieval Europe and the near East… Yet to our eyes it is barely recognisable as a map at all, centred as it is around Jerusalem and encircling it with lands representing only a small portion of what we now know about the geography of the world. King’s School, like most large schools, needs a map to navigate it. It can be divided by house, by subject, even by age. It can also be navigated by timetable and where one should be at any one time in the day. But it is an old school, covering many centuries of learning, and the people that have come and gone have given the school a character just as the buildings that have risen around the cathedral over the centuries have come to characterise it.
Yet, apart from the bricks and mortar, the school is physically never the same for long. Pupils and scholars come and go, teachers a little less often, but generation after generation can identify themselves with the Kings’s School. That is because the school is in itself an identity, or many identities coming together within the institution. Hundreds of personal stories are there to be told at any one time, it is the sum of what people bring to the school, what they do when they are here and ultimately what they take away with them into the world.
Artists have sometimes worked with maps. The surrealists famously made a map that amongst others omitted the United Kingdom and United States entirely! The Portuguese artist Alighiero Boetti commissioned Afghan weavers to make a series of woven and embroidered maps of the world where the weavers depicted countries that no longer exist or even chose not to represent countries they didn’t like… They became decision makers in the ultimate creation of the artwork. Local Artists of the Fante people of Ghana in west Africa made colourful interpretations of British colonial flags they encountered before independence, These Asafo flags represent regional ceremonial and informal military organisations and playfully subvert the original meanings of the symbols and creating a kind of narrative map. Other artists like Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol have intended to go further and re-interpret their national identity through Pop culture as a form of political comment.
How to submit:
All artwork is to be submitted by
Friday 8th February
. Please either email it to email@example.com, or send it to;
FAO Peter Cordeaux, The King's School, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2ES
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