The Cult of Magna Carta

Jean ‘sans terre’ Plantagenêt was, at one point, King of England; Lord of Ireland; Duke of Normandy, Aquitaine, Brittany and Gascony; Count of Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Poitou, la Marche, Auvergne, and Périgord; and Viscount of Limoges. Only his English and Irish titles were held in his own right: the rest he held in fief from the King of France, to whom he owed homage.

A French-speaking Frenchman of Viking descent, furious temper, and not much luck, le Roy Jean (or, on special occasions, Iohannes rex) is nowadays misremembered as the ‘King John’ who was backed into a corner and forced by his own vassals to put his seal to a ‘Great(er) Charter’, limiting his powers. But just as the political context in which Jean operated—as the combative, conspiring and compromised ruler of an internally diverse and divided land—has been obscured by time and selective memory, so too has the origin and legacy of ‘his’ Magna Carta been obscured by selective (re)interpretation; appropriation; and outright fabrication.

Photo by British Library (via flickr)

An Interview with Kimathi Donkor

Born in Bournemouth, England in 1965, Kimathi Donkor is a contemporary visual artist based in London. His paintings, described by reviewers as ‘vivid’, ‘deeply poignant’ and ‘striking for their overt political content’, have been exhibited internationally in Johannesburg, Lisbon, Rome, and São Paulo in Brazil, as well as in the UK, including London, where he has held several solo exhibitions. Donkor has engaged with questions of human rights as an artist, an educator and, earlier in his life, as a community activist.

Under Fire: the shooting of Cherry Groce