A note from Reggie & Celeste: We joined Peace Corps to make the world a better place in our own small way. After Peace Corps, we continued to live and work in West Africa. Over the course of 16 years, we purchased and were gifted carvings and textiles, and our acceptance by neighbors allowed us to take intimate photos of village life. It would be wrong to benefit financially from the generosity of our friends, but we want people to benefit educationally. Thus, we are donating our entire collection to museums.
Some questions that we are asked frequently:
This is a very valuable collection. You’re aware, right, that you could make a lot of money selling the art?
Yes, we’re aware.
What? Your kids don’t want the collection?
Six hundred pieces to store in their attics? No. Our kids and grandkids selected a few pieces to keep. For their homes they’re more interested in having Reggie’s paintings. They enjoy seeing pieces from the collection in museums.
The museum acquisitions committee has accepted your items. The deed of gift is complete. When’s the grand opening?
That’s not how it works, we’ve learned. Donated artworks generally become part of a museum’s permanent collection and are brought out as needed for display in particular exhibits. Museums sometimes schedule exhibits years in advance. Our artifacts will likely be displayed at some point with the exception of textiles. They deteriorate in light so they will be kept permanently in archival storage to be seen and handled only by museum staff, researchers, and students. The artworks which museums accepted into their teaching collections are being used by professors in their classes.
How did you get everything from Africa to the US?
Sea freight, in multiple shipments.
Do you miss the pieces you’ve given away?
No, except for the Bundu mask named Navoh. Most of the carvings were boxed up in our attic for 40+ years so our emotional attachment is not strong. On the other hand, we kept Navoh in our bedroom since she was gifted to us in 1973, so we do miss her but we’re pleased that she has a permanent home at the North Carolina Museum of Art where she is currently on display.
Gongolis? One of our gongoli masks is currently on display at the NCMA and we’d like to find a museum to host a full exhibit to which we’ll contribute the dozen rude, ugly gongolis that live in our attic. Maybe then there’ll be a grand opening.