Who gets to own history? Western colonialism resulted in the loss of a large part of the heritage of many cultures around the world through the “acquisition” of cultural artifacts. Today, many of these artifacts are housed in Western collections, and with ever increasing globalism, the ideas of ownership and provenance have come into question.
As a graphic designer and member of the Kikuyu tribe of Kenya, I wanted to explore this topic by focusing on one artifact in particular—the ndome—through which I can actualize some form of repatriation of these objects, and reclaim a lost part of Kikuyu cultural heritage. In this, I want to follow the tenants of Afrofuturism: to reevaluate the past and present of people of African descent, in order to reimagine our cultural heritage and re-imagine a new future which we have written.
The ndome is a ceremonial shield boys during their coming-of-age ceremony and features many intricate designs on both sides. It is a symbol of familial heritage, and is often passed down from generation to generation.
My project, Ndome, is an interface where users can create their own ndome using designs and patterns I have extracted from existing shields. The interface allows for many different variations of designs, through which Africans and people of African descent can create their own shields, and reclaim a part of their cultural heritage.