How I became a Tribal Art dealer
How long have you been dealing in Tribal Art and what got you started?
In 2013 I went on a sabbatical to rural Morocco. I needed a change in my life. I was practicing as an artist and its a tough sector to be in. It was such a culture shock to meet and spend time with people who still lived a very tribal way of life. Everywhere one looked could be a scene from the bible, with people living very simple lives with their animals. One day I went into the local city – Tiznit and wandered around the jewellery souk. I was captivated by the objects and vintage Berber jewels and my curiosity was piqued.
“One day I went into the local city – Tiznit and wandered around the jewellery souk. I was captivated by the objects and vintage Berber jewels and my curiosity was piqued.”
When I got home to London I brainstormed with a friend all the things I liked or could see myself doing as a business. At first I thought of carpets but my father dissuaded me from this and asked me to think about jewellery instead. I researched a great deal about Berber jewels online on the net. One name kept coming back to me, Sarah Corbett. Sarah Corbett was the owner of an online site focusing on Ethnic jewellery, luckily for me, living in Norfolk. She is the UKs foremost expert on Moroccan tribal jewels, now working for the amazing London dealer Michael Backman. I contacted her to ask her if she would mentor me and very kindly she agreed. Sarah took me along on a long weekend to Marrakesh to introduce me to trusted dealers. I will be forever grateful to Sarah, she believes knowledge should be shared freely and she is fantastic at bringing people together.
Has being a female dealer made it harder, easier or had no effect on your career within the Tribal Art world?
I do not believe that being a female dealer has made any difference to my career. It has possibly only enhanced it!. But I really do think that it is ones attitude and approach to curating beautiful objects that have fascinating tales to tell which speaks louder than ones gender.
Are their areas of the Tribal Art market you see developing in a particularly interesting way?
My main communication tool has been the internet. It has given me a reach that I could only have dreamed of without it. It has also given me access to stock that I would normally have had to travel far more to find.
“Traditionally tribal artefacts have been a male domain of collecting but nowadays gender roles have changed this.”
I think that the ease of communication of the net has helped create more female collectors as it may be quite daunting to visit high end shops without some knowledge of what one is looking at. But this is a guess. I think that the very best dealers will always give a great deal of information about a piece and be very open and friendly. Perhaps traditionally tribal artefacts have been a male domain of collecting but nowadays gender roles have changed this.
What defines a great piece of Tribal art for you?
Three things a great piece should have firstly authenticity, it has to have been made and used for a particular group or tribe with appropriate age, this often means it is beautiful as it would be carfted with great care and spiritual meaning. Secondly quality, it has to be a very good or excellent example of its type and lastly, rarity, something difficult to easily find.