Rand African Art
About Me
This page mainly focuses on how I began collecting and gives you a short write up on me.
All of the photos that were on this page have been moved to a new page that I call my "About Me - Photo
Version" page. A link to this new photo page can be found at the bottom of this page.
If you would like to send me an email or get in contact with me, click below to go to my
Rand Smith - Manta Resort in Belize
To go to my new
About Me - Photo Version page
This is a new page that I just put together with photos from my
travels and from my life. There are a LOT of photos on this page
so it might take a while to load depending on your Internet
connection speed. I hope you will enjoy this new page!
Rand African Art
home page
I don't consider my collection a "private" collection because as opposed to a majority of collectors out there, I
collect in a very public way. Back in 2003/2004 I developed this website for my collection, at first it was a way
for me to take my collection to work with me but it slowly developed into something that allowed me to share my
passion for African art with others around the world. I try to create educational and interactive programs on my
website to share with others, and I also help facilitate a worldwide online interactive discussion group with
several hundred members including museum curators, academics and scholars, as well as all levels of
collectors from around the world. The discussion group was created to give newer collectors a friendly place to
ask others for opinions or advice and also to be a community of people with similar interests so they didn't feel
alone, and it is a place for people everyone to share experiences and knowledge with others. When I first
started collecting I felt alone and really unsure of what was happening to me. I don't think I understood what was
taking me over, and I know that my friends and family also thought I had gone off the deep end. Shortly after I
started collecting I remember going on a ski trip in Aspen with some friends, they were excited because the
snow was great, I was excited because at the time there was an African art gallery up there. We got up there in
time for apres ski and I soon excused myself and wandered off to the African art gallery and 30 minutes later I
was walking down the street toting a 4 foot Tji-wara that I fell in love with back to my hotel room. Collecting is an
interesting thing, it is often compared to an addiction, "Hello my name is Rand and I'm a Collector", and just as
with any addiction it can take over your life in ways you can't imagine, and sometimes you don't feel like you are
the one in control.

The Beginning of it all...When I think back on my childhood... I guess I was always destined to be a collector of
some sort. My first collecting memories are of my matchbox car collection, I remember displaying them and
taking pictures of them with my camera. If it wasn't cars it was coins, watches, robots or something else, I've
always had an interest in collecting strange or unique things. One thing that I remember when I was a kid was
that I loved to take things apart because I wanted to know how they worked and what was inside them, that was
always part of my fascination with the things that I liked. I think this curiosity has continued in my present day
collecting interests with African art because I have an incredible desire to know how things were traditionally
used as well as a strong desire to learn more about the people who made and used them.

I grew up in New Mexico and I was exposed to a couple of different unique cultures, the American Indian
cultures and the Mexican culture, both interesting each in their own ways. I remember going to Santa Fe to the
Indian Market and also going to the Taos Pueblo to watch various dances performed for the tourists. You would
have thought that I would have pursued an interest in American Indian art and artifacts, but even tough I had a
sincere interest in the art and culture, it really never moved me.

My first experience with African art was when I first moved to Denver at the age of 21. I happened upon an
African art gallery set up in an old house and I decided for some reason to stop in. I don't think that I had ever
seen African art, I was just curious. As I walked through the gallery I was very intrigued by all that I saw, the
abstract forms, the uses of different materials, but I knew nothing about it and what it all meant. I think that
experience planted a seed in my head. I didn't think, at that time that it would be anything I'd ever own... that was
about 20 years ago and I have just recently started collecting within the last 8 (or so) years.

I think my interest in African art surfaced during a time in my life in which I was going through a lot of personal
turmoil. It all happened by accident when I was in search of different objects to decorate my new home with that I
was moving into. I had recently purchased a great very realistic fiberglass rhinoceros head, and it transported
my mind back to that African art gallery from many years past. I got the rhino head into my place and decided
that it would be nice to go and look at some African masks to go on either side of it and turn a section of a room
into an 'African theme' (never knowing that it would take over my entire house, and eventually my life!) I knew
nothing about African art at that time, it was still a curiosity.

I ended up starting out with a couple of statues that were actually Indonesian that I bought in Taos NM, I liked the
aesthetics of them and decided they would be a good start. When I moved into my new place, the rhino head
ended up above my desk so now I was looking for something to go between the statues. I started out with a very
cheap, and looking back at it now, a very ugly Bamana "tourist" style mask that I bought at an import store to go
between the statues. A funny story about the ugly mask- I took this mask to an African gallery in Denver
(remember, I knew nothing about African art at this time), I showed the mask to a lady working in the gallery, and
in her wonderful South African accent, she told me what a beautiful mask it was, she told me that she wasn't
sure where it came from or what it's possible meaning could be, but she told me she didn't think it was an
import store type of mask (but in fact it was and I am sure she knew that). I told her that I was looking for a mask
that I could hang with this mask, something that would compliment it. (In her mind, I'm sure she thought it would
look very nice if I placed it in the trash!). She showed me around the gallery, and a Bete mask caught my eye.
She let me take the mask home overnight to see if I liked it, which I thought was great, and I did love the mask. I
didn't know at the time that she was just being nice to me regarding the Bamana style mask, but I loved giving
her a hard time about it later on as I learned more and realized more about that very first mask I bought. The
ugly Bamana mask has been replaced many times over now, but I still have the 2 Indonesian statues that I
started out with.

The Bete mask I mentioned above was a mask that represented a particular tradition in that particular culture,
and the more I read and learned about that culture, and other cultures and the items they made, the more I
became addicted to it all. The ugly 'Bamana style' mask that I first bought ended up being given as a gift to my
young niece, she has it hanging in her bedroom now. It isn't worth a lot of money, and there wasn't much of a
meaning behind it, but it was the piece that really got me started in my African art collecting journey. Every time I
visit her and see the mask I smile. I have learned a lot since I bought that mask and I continue to learn every day.
It may not have had a meaning to it then, but it was that mask that began my collecting journey and I can not put
a price tag on the enjoyment I have had during the past 8 or so years since I bought that first mask... so to me it
is priceless!

I kept going back to the gallery to talk to the owner of the gallery who ended up taking me under his wing by
offering to teach me and help my to start to develop my eye for African art and artifacts. I loved to go to the
gallery and just talk to him and hear his stories about his time in Africa (20+ years) and his many trips there
every year to collect pieces since he moved back to the USA. When I was interested in an object he would tell
me what he knew about it and then we would sit down in his office with his books and I would read and learn
more about them. It was this process that really solidified my interest in these objects and the people they came
from. Something that I thank him for was the fact that he had me sit down and learn and learn more about the
objects and the people like he did. The traditions, ceremonies and meanings associated with these objects
pulled me into a different reality, a different world, and a different perspective on life and how others once lived it.

I was down at the gallery almost every weekend and eventually started working there for free on the weekends
just to have the chance to interact with others were interested in the objects like I was. I used what I had learned,
and what I was learning, to help other with questions about objects in the gallery. I always remember the first
experience I had with African art in the gallery many years ago and no one took the time to talk to me about the
objects and what they represented, and I wanted to make sure that everyone that came into his gallery that I
talked to walked away knowing a little something different when they walked out. When he had to close his
gallery it really made me realize how much I missed the interaction with people and that led me to the creation
of my website which has allowed me to continue that interaction with others around the world who also share
this interest.

I read many books and scoured the Internet for pictures and information on the different cultures and their art. I
would read about a piece that I found interesting and then it was my goal to go out and find an example for my
collection. I've sold off just about everything that I first collected, except for a few nice pieces that I was lucky to
come across, and I continue to upgrade and add to my collection as I can. Over the past couple of years I've
learned a lot and still have a lot to learn but I think I've developed a good eye and understanding about African
art. My collection is always a work in progress and I have slowly over the past few years upgraded my collection
to what it is today. I don't have the largest collection or the nicest collection out there, but it's my passion. I'm
always looking for something I might like a little better than what I have and when I find it I'll buy it and sell my old
piece. Replacing a treasure with a better treasure has become an addiction. I've been pretty luck the past
couple of years and am thankful that I have been able to collect like I have, it's opened up a whole new world for

That's how it all started out for me.

Why African art?
Well, I'm not totally sure. I think it stems from the fact that as a child I was always fascinated with Africa and all of
the fascinating things the continent had in it. Africa was always a strange and exotic other world to me. Then the
seed was planted in the gallery many years ago and then it grew when I started learning about the people from
this continent, and the wonderful and diverse objects that were produced as a part of their every day lives and
learning about the meanings behind these objects. My passion continues to grow as I continue to learn.

My grandfather had a farm when I was growing up and I would ride on the tractor with him when he planted and
harvested the crops... Then I learn about the Bamana people and how the Chi-waras were danced when the
crops were planted to hope for a successful crop and then again at harvest time to show thanks for the good

When my grandfather died when I was a fairly young and there was a normal funeral service, it was a quiet and
solemn event... Then I learn about some of the Senufo funerals where the Kagba and Kponyungo masks are
danced to help keep malevolent spirits away from the deceased so they can pass to the after life in peace, or
how the Lengola figures were placed in the center of the village at the death of a high ranking individual to allow
the men to make invocations, or the wonderfully elaborate Dogon funeral processions and their music and

Both of my sisters are teachers, and it is interesting to think about how we were taught compared to how many
African cultures teach their people. For example it is interesting to learn how the Lega used wooden and ivory
figures as tools to teach people about moral and social conduct and how they use these figures along with
music and dance to portray their meanings and lessons to the people. In America as children we mainly learned
and read about things in books even though we did have some other forms of visual media to learn by.

We go to the store to buy a spoon to serve a Thanksgiving feast, the Dan people carve wonderful and
expressive spoons to use for their feasts. We have doctors and therapists to assist in medical and other
problems; you go in and get a shot or lay on the couch to help you solve your problem. The Lobi have wonderful
and expressive figures to assist in a multitude of different medical and other problems.

It is taking examples like this from my own reality and comparing it to the reality, at one time, of the African
people and realizing how fascinating I find the culture and the artistic representations they used in objects of
their every day lives.

I'm interested in objects that represent traditions and practices that are no longer a part of the lives of the
African people who once made them, as well as objects like the Bamana and Bozo puppets that represent
traditions that have been place for hundreds of years and continue to thrive and evolve through technological
development as well as historical, environmental and religious change.

I walk around the house and see something different in an object that I had not noticed before and it makes me
appreciate it more. I open a book and the form of an object captures my attention now that had previously not
caught my attention and it causes me to learn more about it. I read an article that teaches me something I had
not previously known or gives me a new perspective on an object or a culture, all of these things keep my
passion alive and keep it growing. I am a very visual person and a very passionate person, so for me the
objects have always had a great appeal to me, but I think it is learning about the African people and learning
about their pre Colonial and post Colonial experiences, how they lived their lives and how they have adapted to
the dramatic changes in their lives that has really pulled me in and made me passionate about the art forms and
more so about the people as a whole.

Sometimes when I can't sleep I'll go out and lay in the living room and just look around at all of the objects and
forms I enjoy, it puts me at peace. This collecting passion has totally changed my life in the last 8 years. It has
opened new doors, fostered new friendships and given me something that I can channel my passion into... and
for that I am thankful.

My website
I decided to start working on this web site in my spare time back in January of 2004 to show different pieces
from my collection as well as to put helpful information about the people and their art, it's a good creative outlet
for me. The initial purpose of my website was to take photos of things in my collection and put them on the
website so I could look at them at work. As my website grew my goal was to try and combine the information
that I found most interesting from books and from the Internet on my site and have my site be a good resource
for others, it was a great repository of information for me. I am constantly working on my site and trying to
incorporate new ideas and new information in it as I get time.

I think what is most important to me about my website is the information content. I know that I don't have African
masterpieces in my collection to share with people, but what I do have to share with people is my passion and
love of information. When I first started collecting I would search through books and the Internet in search of
information and pictures and one of my goals for my site is to be able to make accessible to others some of the
information I found to be most helpful to me, and have my site be a good reference point for other collectors or
people interested in African Art. I generally won't put information about things that I don't own or collect on my
site unless it happens to be on one of my You Be the Judge pages in my Educational section.

Google highly ranks my site in searches by people on items that are contained on my website so I feel that the
information content on my site needs to be as accurate, interesting and informative as possible.

I am constantly working on the information content of my site and I have stacks upon stacks of things that I will
slowly add as I get time but unfortunately my website hasn't been updated for quite a while and is in need of a lot
of work.

I currently work in Telecom in the Denver area, but in 2007 I also started a commercial website

Feel free to email me if you have a question or interest in a piece of mine or are looking for a specific piece.

To view my statement on my site, my collection and my collecting philosophy...