Monday, October 01, 2012

Kindred Of The Kibbo Kift

I found this perplexing image by chance and was immediately drawn in by its powerful narrative.

Five figures, four of which are wearing peculiar, dark hooded cloaks are caught in an air of fixed purposefulness. The young men are oddly clothed in what appears to be religious or militaristic garb. Their backpacks are adorned with weird heraldic insignia and each carries a knife and a wooden staff. The figure on the right has a woven badge which depicts a crescent moon sewn onto his left shoulder of his jacket. All eyes are intently turned towards the ground in an air of focused ritual. Smoke begins to rise. This is the kindred of the Kibbo Kift.
The Kibbo Kift were an early 'open air' social movement founded by John Hargrave in 1920. Hargrave’s aim was to encourage “outdoor education, the learning of handicrafts, physical training, the reintroduction of ritual into modern life, the regeneration of urban man and the establishment of a new world civilisation.” Noble themes indeed. As I began to dig a little deeper I became further intrigued. Despite existing for five only years, the Kibbo Kift had many illustrious champions; suffragette Emmeline Lawrence, photographer Angus McBean, social reformer Havelock Ellis, biologist Julian Huxley and author H.G.Wells, each were all enthusiastic and ardent supporters of the movement. By all accounts, John Hargrave was something of an eccentric visionary and exuberant polymath, being an illustrator, cartoonist, wood carver, anti-fascist, thriller novelist, inventor, psychic healer and a forefather of the modern anti-capitalist movements. He was distinctly anti-fascist and abhorred the restrictions of what he saw as the shackles of an industrialised society. In the 1930's he formed the largest uniformed paramilitary street-army in Britain, the 'Greenshirts'. The 'Green Shirt Movement For Social Credit' advocated social change through the dismantling of  financial institutions and oppressive banking systems, arguing that a culture of loans and debt were just a means to enslave the working man. Oh, how times have changed.

At the height of their rise, John Hargrave's social and cultural movement could count more followers than Oswald Mosley’s Blackhirts. Strange, so very strange, that he and is his movement are now all but forgotten. 

There's a very informative site here should you wish to delve further into tales of 'green painted  bricks'  being thrown through the windows of 11 Downing Street and all things Kibbo Kift.

As a rather odd footnote, I stumbled across this wonderfully evocative audio collage of 'campfire magic' while researching the story behind this striking image. I hope you enjoy. Tracklist in comments.


A Sound Awareness said...

Voice: Matthew De Abaitua
Mix: Richard Norris
Recorded and mixed in Lewes, East Sussex.

Originally posted at

1. The Golden Morning Breaks by Colleen from the album The Golden Morning Breaks. Reading from ‘The Spirit’ taken from The Confession of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift by John Hargrave.

2. Camping by Sunol from the album Ohlone. Reading from ‘The Perfect Campsite’ from The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars by Matthew De Abaitua, published by Hamish Hamilton. Reading of ‘The glories of a mountain campfire’ by John Muir from John of the Mountains and quoted in The Art of Camping.

3. To The Fields by Circulus from the album Clocks Are Like People.

4. The Fire in My Head by Voice of the Seven Woods from the album Voice of the Seven Woods. Reading from ‘In Yosemite with John Muir’ by Theodore Roosevelt from his An Autobiography (1913), and quoted in The Art of Camping.

5.Farmland, Freeland by The Advisory Circle from the album Other Channels. Reading from Letter to the Editor of Forest and Stream by Nessmuk, quoted in The Art of Camping.

6. Campfire by Grizzly Bear from the album Horn of Plenty. ‘How to Light a Fire Without a Match’ adapted from Ernest Thompson Seton’s Two Little Savages for The Art of Camping.

7. The Magic Place by Julianna Barwick from the album The Magic Place. Reading from ‘At the Al-Thing’ from The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars by Matthew De Abaitua (Hamish Hamilton).

8. Space Meadow by The Present from the album The Way We Are. Reading from ‘The figures marched up the Long Man of Wilmington” from The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars by Matthew De Abaitua (Hamish Hamilton).

9. Harmonic Convergence by Enumclaw from the album Opening of the Dawn.

10. Ancient Campfire by Biosphere from the album Shenzhou. Reading ‘The Camping Years’ from Leslie Paul’s Angry Young Man, quoted in The Art of Camping

Ben said...

this is weird and wonderful. thank you!

A Sound Awareness said...

Glad you enjoyed it Ben.

øשlqæda said...

lovely + life-affirming. my compliments

A Sound Awareness said...

Cheers Mr. Owl! So was your blog which I miss dearly.

Unknown said...

Wonderful and illuminating post - thank you!

A Sound Awareness said...

Thanks Leigh, glad you liked it.

dispo said...

Interesting! Thanks for this.