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
Click above to go to my favorite links page. Full of links to
galleries, museums, Internet resources and anything
interesting I come across...
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 après 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 5 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

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

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 me.

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 crops.

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 ceremony.

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 2 commercial websites

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...CLICK HERE