Posted by: xian Mail author
I allow myself to bring this reflection to you which has been the fruit of my trips and searchs for beads in West Africa, for more than 25 years, where I am lucky to meet many salesmen of which several became great friends.
I believe that it should well be understood how the majority of the beads discovered in West Africa reach us.
At the base of the travelling merchants traverse the bush or the desert with an aim of exchanging with the villagers very diverse products such as rice, sugar, fabrics or clothing, agricultural implements or material of kitchen. In exchange they bring back artisanal objects (baskets, seats, fabrics) plants, meat of bush but also of the old objects or copies the old ones and of course beads. These travelling merchants do not have practically any idea of the value of the beads which they bring back and which they sell to more specialized merchants such Ali Cissé. They sell these beads by batch, i.e. all that they found in their round. There is in these batches of all, old beads, modern beads, broken beads and any type of materials (glass, wood, metal, plastic…). The purchaser gives a price for the unit. For these beads there is a very reduced number of purchasers. It is an activity which in general is transmitted of father as son.
This practice is very old and the forgeries in the field of the beads are rather recent.
These salesmen of beads recognized are confronted today to determine the truth of the forgery without having really the means. Few, to see not reference material, for certain difficulties of reading and the majority even not a magnifying glass like material of checking and especially very weak knowledge of the techniques of manufacturing. The beads are only one product as another which they buy and which they sell without never making collection of it (with some rare exceptions such Oumar Cissé).
The only experts on the ground are collectors residents on the spot in Africa but they are seldom salesmen…
There are of course great differences among all these salesmen, some control well better than of other their subject, some show a greater honesty than of others, some seek more than others to be formed.
It is in the sense that it is necessary largely to thank this forum for the exchanges that it allows us and the knowledge which he diffuses.
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