I'm a writer of around one hundred children's books and a Yoruba collector.
I started collecting in the late sixties—hockey and football stickers—after that, a collector was born. My collection of African art started in the nineties and I've been collecting Yoruba art for 25 years now.
My interest in Africa springs from working in Guinea Bissau in the early eighties. That, linked with a passion for flea markets and antique shops, led to my first ibeji twin figure that was standing alone in the bright shine of a spotlight in Old Town, Stockholm. I bought it, paying in instalments.
Curious about what I had found I went to the library at the Ethnographic Museum and spent a lot of time reading books and catalogues, not least the Stoll book, ‘Ibeji'.
Then I heard about Peter Willborg and made my first visit to his gallery in the mid-nineties. He happened to just have bought a big collection from Otmaro Silva, the Venezuelan ambassador in Stockholm. Prior—around 1965—Otmaro Silva served in Nigeria and found a lot of good Yoruba art.
Within one year, I had bought about ten ibeji figures, some of them once belonging to Max Willborg, and I was hooked.
Fortunately, I got in early contact with Fred Hanley in London. From him, and also Marwin Chasin, I bought, I discussed and I learned.
Once, I asked a collector friend for advice concerning a very special and good ibeji at a low price. I liked it very much, but as he didn’t like it himself he got me to say no to it... we are still friends though.
Perhaps that pieces will always come your way! You only have to keep your eyes open and know where to look.
I often felt like I would never find a good ibeji again. This is how it was for me living far up North, far away from the 'tribal' art centres.
Then I started to be more active on the internet. I got to know collectors and dealers and started to visit Bruneaf, Parcour des Mondes, museums and galleries as much as I could.
I collect everything that is Yoruba! It started with only ibeji twin figures, but after some years, I changed my mind and now I collect broadly—ivories, bronzes, masks, figures…
Hmm, it's really difficult to pick just one favourite. I'm a little proud of having good and interesting pieces in all these different categories. But one favourite is the small agere Ifa cup in bronze, and one of the Owo tappers, and my latest heddle pulley, and…
My way of adding pieces is to fill gaps. I know what I'm missing [from the collection] and I know when I see a piece if it’s for me or not. [I look for] something that I don't have, that's of good quality and at the right price. This happens quite often! I think I buy about ten pieces a year.
My way of buying is a mix. I buy from collector friends, small galleries, from very well known galleries, from auctions and on eBay or other online sources. I sometimes also find objects to use for swapping—through the years I've found good Mende masks, Zulu staffs and headrests, Senufo, Baule, Dogon, Kuba, Bembe objects, and much, much more.
I have a lot of books (most of what you can find written about Yoruba art), catalogues, magazines, access to the Guy van Rijn African art archive and Artkhade. I've found that I have a very good memory for pictures and details and it helps a lot! Sometimes I discuss with a few collector friends, but I most often follow my own feeling and taste.
Ok, this will be a little wish list!
— A pair of Dadaolomo ibeji figures (or a single!)
— Perhaps a good Olowe piece or two
— A nice Yoruba comb
— The Owo ivory figure I was the underbidder on not so long ago
— A really nice looking Yoruba post
My collecting is limited because of space (and of course sometimes money). We have a nice five-room apartment in central Lund but I could do with another room or three!
My family has accepted to live with the collection and especially my nine-year-old daughter Sigrid, who's very interested and has a great eye!
The bedroom and the children’s rooms are Yoruba-free zones. Monika, my wife, encourages me to sell off sometimes but she never complains when new pieces are brought home. More often it’s the opposite—that makes me happy.
The hallway was never discussed and I see it as an extension of the living room and Monika has agreed to that (thank you!).
People visiting for the first time tend to react in very different ways—look away from the art and talk about something else; ask, ”Is that from Africa?” and ”have you been there?” After answering yes to both questions, they are fully satisfied; "Wow, fantastic! Tell me what it is and everything about it!" This third category is in the minority.
Get good books, visit many museums, find yourself collector friends and see each other frequently over food and a glass of wine or two. Being together with people who share your interest gives collecting an extra dimension.
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