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Illinois State Museum to return 'kigango' to Kenya

By Amanda Vinicky, IL Public Radio

Springfield, Ill. – Diplomats from Kenya will return a stolen memorial post back to its rightful owners. The Illinois State Museum transferred possession of it Wednesday.

In the mid 1960s, a Kenyan family commissioned an artist to memorialize a dead family member by making a sacred "kigango." The carved, wooden post was meant to always stay on the family property, as a way to appease the spirit of the deceased.

But Director of the Illinois State Museum Bonnie Styles says sometimes, kigango are viewed as works of art. And in this case, the post was stolen and eventually ended up at the Illinois State Museum.

It was stolen in the mid-80s and, after multiple transfers, ended up at the museum a few years ago. An archeologist recognized the post as the same one in a photograph of a Kenyan man trying to track down a stolen kigango.

In a ceremony Wednesday, the state museum gave the post to Kenyan officials, who will return it to the man's family.

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