Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Kenya, Mijikenda, Primitive Art, Repatriating Art, Stephen E. Nash, Vigango
Vigango (that’s the plural, the singular is kikango) are the tombstone-equivalents of the Mijikenda tribe residing on the southeastern coast of Kenya. From the viewpoint of the natives, these simple effigies embodied the spirits of their deceased ancestors. On the other hand, just like lots of other examples of primitive art forms, these abstract anthropomorphic figures have, in later years, been adopted by the Trans-Atlantic Bourgeois Bohemians as trophies and status symbols testifying to their possessors’ affluence, highly developed aesthetic sensibilities, and sophisticated sympathy with exotic Third World peoples.
In their original tropical environment, wooden vigango simply sat there in local graveyards and were allowed to rot away, sometimes being replaced at a new location when the village moved by a second generation effigy called a kibao (plural: vibao).
The arrival of a lucrative international market for vigango naturally resulted in the removal of loads of them to the West along with their consequent collecting, connoisseurship, and conservation.
But we live in the Age of the Groveling GooGoo, bent on signaling his moral superiority and worthiness of membership in the Community of Fashion Elite by apologizing for Civilization’s alleged sins and treating the simple-minded superstitions of the primitives with a deference he’s would never remotely be willing to grant to his own inherited Religion, Culture, Country, or Civilization. Read the rest of this entry »