The African Collection

A Passion for African Art

Colin (Dusty) Hind

Struck by a Senufo mask on display at the newly opened Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1983, Colin (Dusty) Hind has been collecting art from the African continent for 40 years.

A longtime BNG Trustee, Dusty brought the first exhibition of African art to the Bermuda National Gallery in 1993 and oversaw the purchase of BNG’s permanent collection of African art in 1996.

With a passion that extends beyond the four walls of the gallery, Dusty also runs a commercial gallery specializing in African art and has assembled a large personal collection of works from the continent, including 40 tribal masks.

We caught up with Dusty to discuss how a visit to the Met on a cold winter’s day changed the course of his life and ignited a lifelong passion for Africa and African art.   

BNG Colin (Dusty) Hind at the opening of The African Collection: Our People, Our Places, Our Stories at the Bermuda National Gallery, March 2022.
Photograph by Brandon Morrison.

BNG: When did you first visit Africa and how did the experience affect you?

DH: It was 1984. Barbara saw a poster at the Bermuda Library on Queen St. entitled ‘Come with me to Africa.’ It had been posted by Cyril Packwood, the Head Librarian, previously a professor at Chicago University. It promoted a group tour of Egypt through the African American Studies Programme. I called him and asked if we qualified as neither of us were African or American. His answer was classic… “Of course you can come – we’ll just call you our token Anglo-Saxons!” Three fabulous weeks all over Egypt ensued. Thirteen of us lead by Cyril and his wife Dorothy. Botswana and South Africa a year later. How did I feel? Like I was home.

Since starting the Crisson & Hind Gallery in 1999, my wife and I have visited over a dozen African countries and have returned to Zimbabwe many, many times. Africa has become an obsession.

A visitor examines the artworks on display in The African Collection: Our People, Our Places, Our Stories. Photograph by Brandon Morrison.

BNG: What was the first piece of African art that you bought?

DH: This is a starkly clear recollection. It was January 1983, a Saturday in New York. I went to see the new Rockefeller Wing at the Metropolitan Museum in the early afternoon, which was displaying a collection of predominantly African works. The wing had recently been opened and housed works from Nelson Rockefeller’s personal collection of tribal art, which had transferred to the Met a couple of years earlier after the closure of the Museum of Primitive Art NYC which Rockefeller had established in 1954.

I was struck by the caption on one of the first objects I encountered there, a ‘fire-spitter’ mask of the Senufo People, which described the materials as being made from as ‘wood, metal, pigment, blood and sacrificial materials’. I had an overwhelming sense of ignorance and yet the object exuded power and mystery.

I left the Rockefeller Wing, purchased a book on the collection, went to the café and read it cover to cover. Armed with the tiniest bit of knowledge, I returned to the Rockefeller Wing but was told that it would be closing shortly so I returned the next morning. I spent the whole day with the collection, except for a short break for lunch, until the same guard told me that that it was nearing 5:00pm and time to leave.

Later that evening, walked up Broadway to about 54th Street. It was almost midnight on a cold Sunday night and the street was empty, but the lights were on at the Wright Gallery. The owner was stocktaking. He let me in, only to discover that the place was packed with African Tribal Art. I purchased my first piece of African Art….a Baule mask that is still my favorite work in our collection, which has now grown to 40 masks.

A selection of masks from the Bermuda National Gallery’s permanent collection of African art. Photograph by Brandon Morrison.

BNG: How long have been collecting African art and how has your collection grown over the years?

DH: My wife Barbara and I have been collecting African Tribal Art for almost forty years. That’s half of my life. We ran out of space years ago. So, any additions require deep debate. Most Art collections consist of paintings, drawings, maps – two-dimensional art, hanging on the walls. Most African tribal art, however, consists of objects made of wood, terracotta, bronze or stone. It fills a volume. It requires a major re-think on living with art.

The paintings, sculptures and artifacts have become friends, lodgers, family members and windows that share occupancy with us; sometimes impinging on our space, demanding to be moved, needing a little pampering or surprising us with a new revelation….an angle we hadn’t seen before. Living with this art is a joy and a privilege.

The African Collection: Our People, Our Places, Our Stories is on display at the Bermuda National Gallery through to May.