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A colonial text about an anti-European cult is teleported to a future techno-culture where mythic lifeworlds are created with appropriated technologies. Meanwhile, sorry creatures continue to scrounge for resources and worship standardized devices on the dumps of consumerism.


A dirty white man digs through electronic waste on a dump site, crudely dismantling devices to harvest resources. Meanwhile, the machinic voice of an Amazon Alexa reads a fragment from a 1930s colonial analysis of the Kenyan Mumbo cult, which describes adherents of the cult as retrogressive and unclean. From the distance, a woman wearing a flightsuit made of traditional kitenge fabric and golden boots approaches, carrying a mysterious green device. She opens a white door that leads into the ground and disappears.

 The woman reappears in a pristine white room, where two other women are operating a range of mythical devices made from discarded consumer electronics. One of the women narrates the origin myth of the Mumbo cult in its original language, Dholuo. The green device that was delivered by the first woman now plays a double role as an improvised vacuum cleaner of sorts and the snake that embodies the god Mumbo in the myth, who promises a utopian society of plenty without European colonizers.

Back on the dump site, the white man unboxes an Amazon Alexa and places it on an altar. The device starts to speak again and recites from the same colonial text: ‘The altar post ... appears to be an unmistakeable phallus, … an unconscious relic of phallic cults and practices handed down from unremembered antiquity.’


The Cults takes a sci-fi perspective on the appropriation of obsolete consumer technologies (‘orodha’ in Kiswahili) and their transformation into devices with new uses and meanings, a commonplace practice in Kenya. The devices that are featured in the film were created during two collaborative workshops with artists, electronics artisans and academics that took place in Nairobi, Kenya in 2019 and 2020.

Drawing from the style of mid-20th century ethnographic films, the film imagines an alternate technological culture that takes it starting point from East-African stories, myths and practices in order to challenge the standardized technological narratives of globalized consumer culture. The film reworks a 1930s ethnographic text by a British colonial administrator on the early 20th century Mumbo cult, an anti-colonial religious movement.

Taking fragments of this colonial text out of context and thus reversing its meaning, it is used to critique neo-colonial resource-harvesting and the fetishization of standardized consumer technologies. Part of the text is reclaimed by one of the protagonists – a woman in sci-fi attire made of African kitenge fabric – who narrates the origin story of the Mumbo cult, translated ‘back’ from English into its original language, Dholuo, directly to the viewers.

The Cults is part of the research project Disobedient Devices, led by Dr. Dani Ploeger, in collaboration with Greenman Muleh Mbillo and Joan Otieno. It has been supported by the Global Challenges Research Fund, Arts and Humanities Research Council and The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London.

The Cults


16mm film, 6'11"

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