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On the coast of eastern Kenya live nine tribes collectively known as the Mijikenda. For generations, the Mijikenda have farmed their homesteads, where they live with up to 60 extended family members. According to Mijikenda belief, the spirits of the dead linger there, too, commemorated by statues erected around the homestead. These figures are held in high regard: The Mijikenda have been known to pour sips of wine on the ground in front of the statues so that the deceased may indulge.

Wooden carvings called vigango sit on the boundaries of some of these homesteads. Vigango (singular: kigango) are some of the most powerful Mijikenda statues. They are made of termite-resistant hardwood and stand between four and nine feet tall. Each kigango is the physical embodiment of a deceased member of the Gohu, a secret society of men chosen from seven of the Mijikenda tribes. The Gohu member’s family must hire an artist to craft the kigango and pay

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