Intellectual Barbarians: The Kibbo Kift Kindred

The English organisation The Kibbo Kift Kindred (1920-1932) was formed by the artist, writer and pacifist John Hargrave after becoming disillusioned with the Boy Scout movement. Their philosophy was based on a shared appreciation of nature and handicraft, as well as a commitment to world peace. Though small in number, the group’s notable members included suffragettes, scientists and the novelist H.G.Wells. Unusually for the time, it was open to every age and gender.

A 1929 exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery was a way of spreading their ideas, and this archive display reveals their remarkable aesthetic drawn from ancient Egyptian, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic and Native American crafts, dress and language. Previously unseen woodcarvings, furniture, ceremonial dress designs and photographs of the Kibbo Kift on parades and camping trips present a forgotten moment in British social movements but a futuristic vision which continues to resonate today.

The exhibition is co-curated by Dr Annebella Pollen, Principal Lecturer, History of Art and Design and AHRC Research Fellow, University of Brighton, and Dr Nayia Yiakoumaki, Curator: Archive Gallery, Whitechapel Gallery.