Rand African Art
About Me

This page mainly focuses on how I began collecting and gives you a short write up on me.
This was written a long time ago when I first got into African art around 2003/2004.
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 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 though 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
30 years ago and I have just recently started collecting within the last 20 (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 complement 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 cannot 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
me 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 everyday 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 afterlife in peace, or how the Lengola figures were placed in  he 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 meaning  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 everyday 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 lie 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...