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Gatherings from the San Francisco Tribal Arts Show

(This Field Notes was written during the Covid 19 lockdown, while Archeo was closed.)

In what seems like a long time ago in a faraway land but was really just February in San Francisco, I (Margit) attended the 34th annual Tribal Arts Show at the Fort Mason Center. The purpose was to put a finger on the pulse of tribal art—specifically African—and to score some quality pieces.

The weather was dry, hot, and sunny—perfect for walking around and for doing what residents were doing: sitting outside wearing fantastically stylish sunglasses, drinking serious coffee.

Once inside Fort Mason, however, the allure was at least as great. Some 70 vendors from all over the world (Istanbul, London, Oklahoma) displayed impressive collections from ancient, tribal civilizations. Tibetan, Chinese, Pre-Colombian Mexican, and Japanese alternated with origins I was more familiar with, African, in row upon row of stalls. I wandered between walls adorned with Kifwebe and Lobi masks (two Archeo favorites) and through forests of pedestals displaying Yoruba carvings, Baule currencies, and Bamana whistles.

The vendors, meanwhile, formed another compelling attraction, all rich in stories and that intriguing compulsion that describes avid collectors. People who appreciate tribal art collect with the passion that must have once pressed explorers to venture into unknown seas and unfamiliar lands. They love to wonder, to speculate on origins and stories of pieces that remain a mystery. They’re curious, and they’re obsessed with discovery—much like the visitors to Archeo.

Check out the treasures I brought back. They’re beautiful reminders of long times ago and faraway lands.