Hello to Everyone,
My introduction to African art doesn't involve dealers or artist, however it is still unique in it's own right. Imagine an apartment full of loud music, guys and girls in their early-twenties (myself included) and lots of beer and liquor.
After a few minutes of being in the apartment and partaking in the beer and girls, I saw a coworker of mine on the internet in a side room. I inquired on what he was looking at and he showed me a screen full of African pieces that where for sale. He began to explain the pieces and their primary function.
After sitting and gazing at the computer monitor with him for a few hours, he invited me to his apartment which was down a little ways from where we were. He had a small African art collection that he wanted to show me. I was hooked from the moment I opened the door.
I had just moved into my first apartment the same week. I only owned a bed and no other piece of furniture. I decided that my apartment needed a Fon bocio more that a couch or dining room table. I contacted a US gallery via a library computer, that had the best bocio I could find within my budget and made the purchase. Now I had a 17' x 13' living room with a custom mounted 9 inch tall bocio sitting on the floor. I was very proud of my first purchase.
I now live in a house, have a wife, a son, a dog and furniture in every room. As I write this entry, that very same bocio is nicely lit in a glass display case (top shelf of course) along with several other Vodun fetishes. To tell you how bad I have it for this piece, when I had to evacuate for a hurricane, the bocio was boxed up and came for the fourteen hour bumper to bumper ride with the rest of the family.
Answering the original question, I am a collector of objects at heart. As a kid it was baseball cards, comic books, action figures, etc. As a man in my early thirties, I now collect West African vodun objects. I appreciate all African pieces as well as those from the Pacific Islands. When I get the opportunity to view these objects at a museum or for purchase, I remind myself, "someone really believed in this piece and placed a tremendous amount of trust in it for the well-being of their family and themselves." They should be treated with respect and not taken lightly. Once you can wrap your head around that idea, it is a "no brainer". Some collect for investment reasons and some collect pieces for only it's provenance. I say collect what you like and learn as much as you can about it and from it along the way.