Shipping and Packaging
Within continental US we ship via UPS, all packages are insured. Outside the continental US, we ship via US Air Mail, also insured. We practice "defensive packaging" to make sure you receive your items in best condition. Id you require shipping outside the US, please email or call us before ordering and paying for your item. We'll confirm the shipping price and ensure that the size of the package meets the guidelines of your country of destination. We will then process payment.
Reserved vs. Sold
The item is currently not for sale if there is a "Reserved" sign next to it. Reserved sign is posted when clients place an order for the item through the site or through other sale channels we use. We post the "Sold" sign when the payment is processed and received. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause. We try to replace sold items as soon as possible. If you see "Sold" or "Reserved" sign ask yourself a question: Is there anything else I may be interested in? The items may be reserved after the Customer will deposit 15% of their total price. The balance must be paid during 30 calendar days after the item is reserved. Otherwise the artifact will be put on sale again, the deposit will be credited to the account of the Customer and will be deducted from the price of the next purchase.
Where do these pieces come from?
While we still personally collect tribal art in Asia, we delegate it to others in Africa. It is almost impossible for a foreigner to get to African places where good and authentic art still remains. We constantly hear stories about Americans and Europeans personally collecting in African countryside. In reality, most of this collecting is done at large warehouses close to international airport in central African capitals. We also occasionally acquire well documented collections or list items from our own collections.
All of our items are clearly authentic. However, as for almost all wooden African artifacts, the true age is very difficult to establish, if you ignore the exaggerated stories which villagers or sellers always tell you here or in Africa. Actually, contrary to the popular claims by some unscrupulous dealers, there are no scientific methods available to date a wooden object produced within the modern history. All items we display are collected by trusted contacts in Africa who carefully scout the countryside for good pieces. All were chosen for their stylistic purity, artistic value, and signs of age and use. After many years of collecting and seeing thousands of items one develops a good feel for age and authenticity - these are the best and often only guides for the collectors and museum curators. Some signs of age to watch are: patination, age cracks, darkening of wood, oily deposits on the parts contacting the body, oxidation of materials. Raffia does not last long in African climate, so many old masks have new raffia attached to them.
Are they authentic or tourist art?
Yes, all items are authentic one-of-a-kind African tribal art! However, African artists often use older pieces to inspire them. The same is true for the European or Asian art. These works cannot be called copies. They are artifacts made by artists for the same purposes as the older artworks. Many great artists in Africa still make art for local people to use in traditional and religious ceremonies. Often, they will sell older pieces, surplus pieces or out-of-use pieces to the collectors. These items are often of superb quality, too expensive for the generally poor locals to acquire. The only copies are so-called "airport art", which we never carry and do not want you to buy.
We often give the following advice to the new collectors: only buy and collect what you like! Try to downgrade usually exaggerated claims of rarity and age and concentrate on artistic qualities and stylistic authenticity. Read good book about tribal art – there are many (see below). Time and experience help to develop a better feel for the quality, authenticity, age, and style -- but remember: never buy a story, buy an item. Make sure it is the artwork that grabs you, not the talk and salesmanship!
Why are they so inexpensive? Are they copies?
There is really no such thing as copies of African art. Copying is a problem for the overvalued European art or Antiquates, which sells for thousands and often millions of dollars. In contrast, African art is unjustly and grossly undervalued. Even wonderfully crafted pieces, that take days or months to make, sell for several hundred dollars. This is because the time and skill of African tribal artist living in the village is so poorly valued and rewarded. This creates the situation in which any piece reproduced outside Africa will be much more expensive than the original tribal art. Just look how much work goes into each of these artifacts! If I would be in the art copying business I would much rather manufacture fake Rembrandts, Monets, Rodins, Faberges, and Tiffanies of this world or Roman, Egyptian or pre-Columbian items.
However, in a near future African and other tribal art is expected to greatly increase in value to the level when the price reflects the quality, skill and effort. At this time coping may become a problem.
Cracks, chips and signs of wear
Age cracks, blemishes, wear and tear, and signs of repairs are the integral part of African art – which was meant to be used and often abused. These imperfections are considered normal and do not detract from the artistic and monetary value of the piece. Actually, "mint condition African art" is often considered inferior to that with the obvious signs of use. Many African artifacts from the best museum collections are missing some parts or have signs of crude repairs made with the locally available materials – all are considered acceptable and often add to the charm and overall impact of the items. Thus, do not get upset about small cracks, dents, chips and other signs of use – accept them as an integral part of the art. Just think of the Egyptian, Greek or Roman masterpieces, which remain in the center of our artistic appreciation in spite of the missing body parts.
Breakage during shipment
All items we ship are professionally packed and insured for the whole price. Very rarely, the carrier may damage a particularly brittle items. In this case you have an option of using the insurance to repair the item or getting a full reimbursement.
How to take care of tribal wooden artifacts
Not much care is normally required. Keep your pieces away from excessive temperature and humidity fluctuations and direct sunlight. When forced hot air heating is used in winter, humidifiers really help to reduce cracking and warping. Wood boring insects, although rarely a problem, can be controlled by insecticide sprays or fumigation. Putting an effected item in a freezer for 1-2 weeks is often the safest and most effective way to get rid of the wood damaging insects. Wood borers produce small surface holes which periodically discharge fine wooden dust which accumulates in tiny mounds under the effected object. Wood borer holes are much smaller than holes produced by termites which do not present problems for the indoor collections.
Clean your art pieces often. Soft brushes, dusters or canned compressed air (i.e Dust-off® compressed-gas equipment duster) are effective in removing dust and dirt from the surfaces or crevices. Do not use water or detergents to clean your artifacts. Colored wood putty can be used to fill the cracks if they really bother you. Elmer's glue-all works well to glue back the broken pieces. To hold the glued piece in place use rubber bands or shrink wrap. However, for best results consider taking the item to a reputable professional antique or art restoration business.
We do not recommend applying any protective coatings to your wooden art. Leave natural oils, tars and pigments used by African artists in their original, unadulterated form. However, some collectors, dealers and gallery owners apply various protective or decorative coatings onto their objects. In some cases these coatings are meant to mimic the real patina, creating a problem for inexperienced collectors. If you are determined to add some shine and pizzazz to your pieces do not use anything harsher than wax-based finishes. Wax will not damage most items and can be removed. As all other coatings, wax layer will often darken the color of you piece, so try it first on a small hidden area.
Visit our African Tribal Art Books for our recommendations.