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Illinois State Museum Returns Sacred Objects to Kenya


Illinois State Museum returns sacred objects to Kenya

Anthropology curator to travel to Kenya this month to meet with Mijikenda elders

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois State Museum has returned 37 wooden memorial statues, known as vigango, to the National Museums of Kenya for repatriation to Mijikenda communities. These statues are considered sacred cultural objects and are believed to carry the spirits of male elders who have passed away.

This month, Dr. Brooke Morgan, curator of anthropology at the Museum, will join representatives from other United States museums and universities to visit Kenya. During the trip, they will meet with Mijikenda elders and gain insight into the National Museums of Kenya’s efforts to protect vigango and restore them to their communities.

“These items are sacred and inalienable from the people who created them,” Morgan said. “Separating vigango from their rightful owners harms the spiritual well-being of the whole community. The Museum has long recognized the importance of returning these statues to Kenya and appreciates the institutions that have helped pave the way for such a significant large-scale return.”

The vigango (singular kigango) were initially removed from Mijikenda villages and sacred sites in the 1980s, acquired by art collectors, and later transferred to the Illinois State Museum as part of a significant African art collection. Unbeknownst to the Museum, the vigango never should have been taken in the first place. In 2006, Museum staff discovered that a kigango in its collection had been stolen and subsequently returned it to its rightful owner.

Moreover, through the Museum’s extensive research and collaboration with colleagues in Kenya, it has now successfully returned all remaining vigango in its collection to the National Museums of Kenya for repatriation to Mijikenda communities.

Source: My Radiolink

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