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Ekeko - guarding memories

Sarah Younan, 1 June 2021

A long time ago an ancestor lived in the Congo, let’s call him Ekeko.

Ekeko the Spirit Doll

Ekeko was much loved by his community and after his passing, skilled craftsmen made a spirit doll from solid iron to guard his memory.

We don’t know exactly how this spirit doll found its way to Wales. It’s a gap in knowledge that speaks of colonialization and empire. Many artefacts were taken from the Congo, and with them cultural memories were lost. We are keen to hear from anyone who may know more about this spirit doll.

Often when artefacts end up in museum collections they can no longer serve their intended purpose. In order to try and activate Ekeko we worked together with Cruse Bereavement Care, Playframe and the Hands on Heritage project, a youth-led project at Amgueddfa Cymru funded through the National Heritage Lottery Fund. We worked with Norbert Mbu-Mputu, a Congolese philosopher and poet who created this poem:

I am Ekeko

Welcome to my home

Here in the space of Bakulu I guard memories

and connect the world of the seen and the unseen

I carry memories from the past, the present and the future.


Bakulu - a Space for Memories

To re-activate Ekeko, we created a photoscan of the spirit doll and built a virtual space, a Bakulu; a space to guard memories of the ancestors. We worked with young people supported by Cruse Bereavement care to add memories to this space. During workshops we explored virtual reality spaces, shared memories and created visual representations, from photographs, from clay, from images found online. We placed these in the virtual space, where Ekeko smiles as memories from the past and present are carried into the future.

You can view the 360 video of the virtual memory space we co-created.


Some tech stuff:

What is a photoscan?

Photoscanning also known as photogrammetry uses triangulation to create 3-dimensional representations of real life objects from photographs. By taking photographs from different angles, so-called "lines of sight" can be developed and the surface of the object can be calculated and rebuilt digitally.

How can I view the video?

You can view the video in 2D on Youtube, or you can create a 3D experience using your smartphone, some cardboard and the YouTube mobile app.

  1. Assemble Google Cardboard.

  2. Open the Ekeko video on YouTube app.

  3. To start playback, tap the play button.

    Tap the Cardboard icon . The screen split will split into two smaller screens.

  5. Insert your phone into Cardboard.

  6. Look around to view the video in VR180 or 360 degrees.

How can I navigate the video?

The memories will move slowly with enough time to allow you to read their captions. You can simply let the video play or navigate by:

  • In 2D using your mouse (or fingers if you are using touch screen) to grab the video image and move it around, and zoom in and out to navigate.

  • In 3D you can move your head to look around in the space.

  • You can pause the video for a closer look. The navigation remains active even if you pause the video.


With thanks to our participants, and the memories they kindly donated.

Grief is a natural process, but it can be devastating. Cruse Bereavement Care offer support after the death of someone close.

Dr Sarah Younan

Youth Engagement Coordinator
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