Steve Thanni - Co-founder FTG
Some years ago, I used to co-own and run a successful Software Consultancy in Antwerp, Belgium. My life was a series of business meetings across Europe coupled with copious amounts of fine wines, lunches and executive hotel rooms and airport lounges. I was an avid collector of Oceanic and African Tribal Art and a regular bidder at Sothebys, Bonhams and Christies in London, Paris and beyond. Tribal Art was just a hobby many years ago, but certainly an expensive one.
My wife Michaela, ran a charitable enterprise called 'fair trade ghana' which she started in memory of her Father, Dr. Dan Berko - a great philanthropist who did so much for many villages in Ghana. Fair Trade Ghana has now spread across 5 countries and supports villages in Ghana, Cote D'ivoire, Liberia, Mali and Guinea. Sadly, Michaela got very sick and was no longer able to go and visit the villagers, the Chiefs, or indeed get too involved on the ground with her aid efforts. Steve came to the rescue, and before I knew it... I was hooked. I started spending a lot less time in Europe and more time trekking across West Africa meeting Chiefs and seeing what the villages needed.
I have to admit, the allure of seeing what old rare tribal treasures could be found in the villages myself was also an incentive - certainly cheaper than buying on auction at Sothebys.
Anyway, to cut a long story short - when you see the suffering of the villagers and especially the children up close and personal, or visit an orphanage or refugee camp - it changes ones perspective! I somehow persuaded a group of other avid collectors to join forces with me, come trekking and also donate much of their time and even many of their treasured collectors pieces to be sold to fund our activities.
Hence 'Fine Tribal Gallery' was formed years ago and our little projects have grown and grown from buying a few water containers to digging wells, and from a few sacks of seeds to lorry loads of sacks of food with medicines and mosquito nets. We even helped set up a refugee camp for refugees from Mali coming into Lower Burkina Faso.
Since then, we have opened Tribal Galleries, done many Exhibitions and Tribal shows and basically pooled our resources, knowledge and efforts to become arguably one of the best sources for truly 'authentic' African tribal pieces in Europe. We work with some amazing Chiefs and Elders who utilise a network which stretches across West Africa down to the Congo River.
Sadly, due to Michaelas MS getting much worse, some members of the team almost permanently based in Africa, and our lovely Gallery Manager going to look after children in India, we decided to wind down our Limited company. Fine tribal Gallery Ltd no longer has Michaela as it's Director. Fine Tribal Gallery the brand is still run by Steve, who also sells private pieces under his own name.
We have posted a few pictures here which may show "WHY" we are so passionate about helping the children in the villages we support... but sadly you just have to see their suffering for yourself, to fully understand...
Another good reason.. IT IS THIS SIMPLE - I/We have arguably much older, better and tribally used pieces than many of the Tribal Art Galleries in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam or even the USA. We try to help all the villages we take pieces from and work with Chiefs to help support the remotest and most desperate villages through whatever crisis they face.
On top of all that, we get to spend all our time surrounded by amazing tribal pieces and learning of their history and traditional uses, from lots of wise old men sitting around camp fires and spend time trying to help these wonderful children. What more could a man want!!
Do we need any more reasons..?
MALI & COTE D'IVOIRE REFUGEE CRISIS
Fine Tribal Gallery is exhausted!! Mali and the surrounding countries experienced one of the worst droughts in their recent histories. On top of that, civil war broke out in Mali and the Muslim rebels brought much of the
country to it's knees, causing more instability to an already unstable and fragile infrastructure with dwindling natural resources - like water! Most of the Malians fled North, huge amounts went East into Northern Burkina Faso, and some came further south. The crisis took many months before the Western news media
picked up the story. The big Aid agencies took quite some time to mobilise into safe positions. We and our team helped where we could, bringing in aid from Cote D'Ivoire and Burkina using whatever mans were available. We are now concentrating our efforts back in Cote D'Ivoire.