|My statement on my site, my collection and my collecting philosophy|
My collection consists of objects that may be more recent representations of original traditional pieces and
objects that are older authentic pieces, in my opinion, and have had traditional use. When I'm deciding on a
piece that I purchase, my main concern is not “is this piece old or authentic” but rather “is this piece
beautiful to me, is it in good style, and does this piece speak to me on some artistic/aesthetic level that I
personally appreciate”. I collect African art to a large degree on an “Art appreciation” basis, and because of
the beauty and mystery that it represents to me. Many things I buy to study and learn more about them and
the cultures that they come from, but they are object forms that I personally find intriguing and enjoy.
I know that I don't have African masterpieces in my collection to share with people, but the most important
thing I do have to share with people is my passion for African art, which is not a copy or reproduction, it's
100% authentic. I am slowly working to upgrade the level of my collection as I can.
It has been a long time since I've updated this website with new things from my collection as I've upgraded
it. The level of my collection is better represented on my www.RandTribal.com website these days, as that
is the website where a lot of new things in my collection, but not all, are represented.
I collect what interests ME, and I understand that my collection may not appeal to all African collectors. I
also understand that my collecting philosophy may not resonate with everyone out there as well, everyone
has their thoughts about how one should collect and what one should collect and it is my opinion that
people should collect what they want, how they want, but people should be educated collectors and
educated consumers. I am always learning and always upgrading and refining my collection as I can. I do
my collecting in a very public way, and for that I feel that I have a certain degree of responsibility to people
who visit my website and view objects in my collection. I feel that the "collecting public" should have a basic
overall understanding about the objects they collect.
My responsibility, in my eyes, is to convey to people that there are many levels of objects in African art out
there. Many of the objects that are on the general market today are copies of traditional objects. Many of
the traditional objects these forms represent have not been authentically produced for use by the cultures
that would have traditionally used them for many, many years because the cults/groups that produced
these items no longer exist, and their belief systems are no longer in place, largely due to the influence of
missionaries and other religious groups around the world. Many of the old and rare objects that are popular
in the high end market place are reproduced, in varied quality, and sold on the general market.
These objects are created and made to look much older than they actually are because this is the demand
of the collecting market. I have personally witnessed a newer object undergo a total transformation within
the course of a day. It was a fresh unfinished piece of wood in the morning and by the afternoon, or a few
days later, it "appears" like it had been ritually used for decades. Objects have been made specifically for
the collecting market for over a hundred years. As soon as the cultures in Africa saw that there was a
demand for the objects, masks and other things they produced they made a business out of it and that
"business" has slowly grown and become more and more advanced over the years. Now sometimes it is
hard for the experts to determine what is authentic and what is a reproduction.
As long as an object is represented as truthfully as possible I personally do not feel that owning a piece that
is a stylistically good representation of a traditional form is a bad thing, some people will agree and others
will disagree. I personally can not afford an authentic Fang Nlo Byeri head or a Luba bowstand or a
Lengola figure, but that should not mean that I can not appreciate the form and meaning behind them in a
figure that is a nice stylistic representation of these objects as long as I know what the difference is.
Over the years though my collecting focus has changed and I have put more of a focus on collecting
objects that are authentic and have been traditionally used and are good examples of their kind. I have a
very limited budget to collect with, but these days I'd rather spend a little more on one piece of good quality
rather than spend the same amount of money on multiple lower quality objects.
What I do feel is wrong is when people misrepresent objects as being "very old" or "tribally used" or
"collected in the early 1900's" when they know for a fact that is not the truth, or they say it is an estimate on
their part because they really don't know what they're dealing with. This practice is misleading and terribly
wrong in my eyes, especially to newer collectors who don't know any different. I will never make any of
these kinds of statements about objects in my collection, or items I am selling unless I am 100% sure. I
am slowly going through my website and updating the comments about the objects in my collection and
putting my personal thoughts about them on the pages, but this is a time consuming process and I am
working on it as I can. I will try and provide good examples of the type of object in my collection on the
pages on my site for that object, I do this to show people what a good example should look like in my
The goal of my website and my discussion group is to teach people how to start to identify the "good" from
the "bad" and hopefully inspire them to learn more about what they collect and become educated
consumers. I admit upfront and honestly that I collect a few objects that are copies of original traditional
objects, and I am comfortable with my collecting choices. Authenticity is something that I do look for when I
can, and over the years I've moved towards collecting more authentic pieces, but still pieces that I can
afford and enjoy. You pay more for authentic and documented pieces, and that is a trade off you must be
willing to take into consideration as a collector growing your collection.
If your goal is to only collect old an authentic objects, I can help by referring you to dealers whom I trust and
dealers who carry only these types of objects. You can collect authentic objects and not spend a lot of
money if you wish to collect small utilitarian objects such as Ethiopian headrests, spoons, dolls, small Lobi
figures and objects like that. If you wish to collect old and authentic Fang objects, Luba objects and objects
from other well known and sought after cultures then you should work with a trusted source, because old
and authentic objects can often times come with large price tags. Authentic objects don't always have to
cost an arm and a leg to obtain, just beware of stories that go along with pieces about their age and so on,
especially from many objects that are misrepresented on places like eBay from sellers who really don't have
an idea of what they are dealing with. If you are paying a few thousand dollars for a mask or a statue, then
you better know what you are doing, or have implicit trust in the person you are dealing with and it is often
times a good idea to get a 2nd and 3rd opinion.
My thoughts are that you should collect what you want, old or new, authentic or reproductions, but collect
what you like and try to be an educated collector and an educated consumer. Go out there and learn from
others, talk to people, read books and look at examples, visit museums and learn about the objects you
enjoy. Developing your eye takes time, and it takes looking at many, many different objects from all kinds of
different sources to start to be able to determine what is good and what is bad. Develop relationships with
other collectors and dealers out there, get to know them and you can learn a lot!
I highly recommend that you read the fantastic article called "Authenticity of African Sculptures" by Henri
Kamer. I think you will enjoy it, and it may bring many interesting things to your attention. (link will open in a
Often times you will see that I post images of published and older pieces underneath the photos of my
piece. I do this to share these images with people so they know what old and traditional pieces look like.
Generally these pieces are some of my favorites of their type and I want to share these images with others.
These pieces are usually from museums and important collections, and they are mainly for visual reference
Every piece of African Art is an individual creation... and we are as individual as the pieces we collect. I may
not fully understand everything there is to know about a group of people and the art/objects they produce,
but I enjoy learning as much as I can about a particular piece that I find intriguing, and sometimes the story
behind a piece adds a great deal to the beauty I see in it. I also enjoy learning about and collecting more
modern pieces that are based on older traditions that are still being used in Africa today, like my Bamana
My website started out as a way for me to take my collection to work with me so I could view it and enjoy it
through out the day. Then it became a place where I would keep some of my favorite examples of different
objects I was interested in that I would use for reference when I was buying something. Then it became a
place for me to keep articles and reference materials easily accessible for me, and it has grown and grown
over the past 2 years. It is now a place for me to share my passion with others, and has hopefully become a
good reference site for other collectors who wish to pursue knowledge on items they are interested in. I don’
t have the largest collection or the nicest collection out there, but it is my passion. I have tried to fill my site
with pictures and as much knowledge as I can pull together about a piece and what it was used for. When I
can, I will also try to include a picture of a piece being danced or shown in ceremonial context.
I think what is most important to me about my website is the information content. I was NOT blessed with
the ability to write very well, so most of what you see on my site is taken from various reference sources
and I have tried (not so good in the past, but good now) to cite these reference sources on my website and
continue to go back through and cite ones that I originally didn't when I started my website. I try and put
content in my site that I personally feel describes a piece or describes what objects may have originally
been used for. There are many different views and there is a lot of incomplete research out there, so what I
put on my site is not the gospel truth, it is just the interpretation that I personally enjoy the best. 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.
From time to time I will sell items from my collection as I am always in the process of upgrading my
collection or I will sell items to help support my collection fund.
My collection is self supporting, meaning that if I have a piece that I want to buy I will usually sell a piece or
two or three from my collection to help pay for it. I will also sell things to help support my collection fund,
and some of these items may not have been in my collection for a long period of time or they were
specifically purchased by me to sell, but they are items that I choose because they are nice items in my eye
and items I wouldn't mind having in my own collection and feel they would be nice pieces for other
Items I sell are of varied quality, as I like to be able to sell things for the new collector who doesn't want to
spend a lot of money or is just looking for something decorative for their home and also items of a better
quality for the intermediate collector who is a more educated consumer and knows what they are buying
and what they like. I am always willing to give people my honest and open opinion about anything I am
selling. Depending on what kind of object you are looking for, what I tell you about an object I am selling
may discourage you from buying it or it may re-enforce your initial attraction to the object. One thing is that I
am always as honest and up front about an object as I can be and my intention is to never misrepresent an
object in my collection or an object that I am selling. I like to surround myself with items that I find
aesthetically pleasing, so even though I may buy something with the specific intent to sell it, the object is
usually something that I will enjoy displaying in my house until it does sell. Everything I buy ends up
displayed in the house at one point or another, I like to keep my collection constantly changing and
Thanks for taking your time to read this, I hope that it will help you understand me and my collection a little
* Also - I have just added to my website a few of my thoughts on the topic of authenticity.
CLICK HERE to go to the page