About Ethnic-Design

Ethnicdesign.ch is the online presence of the collection brought together, over the last 50 years, by Reto Zehnder a passionate Swiss collector. After a professional stay of 2 years in Nigeria (1968/69) and surrounding countries, my attachment to the land and people and my curiosity led me to the former Geneva African Institute, nowadays the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. With my diploma in the pocket, I spent close to 10 years working for the Swiss International Cooperation before opening my own consulting firm. Beside my professional travels, I undertook extensive overland journeys to Africa, the middle East, South-East and Central Asia. Spending hours on markets and with craftsmen, observing and researching their traditional crafts and techniques was part of all my travels.  My profound affection of the land and peoples visited and a first-hand knowledge of traditional cultures as well and the art and artefacts they produce are at the origin of the collection. Not willing to enter the art market around religious art such as masks and statues, I focused on functional and utilitarian craft and cultural artefacts along with jewellery. Looking behind the visual final product researching their symbolism and spiritual dimensions, their decorative and aesthetic qualities alongside with the way the object is used, circulates among tribes and generations.  Qualities who minimize if not wipe out a clear distinction between art and craft. While the large majority of the objects have been collected in the field. Some collections (galleries) such as tribal currencies or Nepalese Ghurras, have since then been completed by acquisitions through recognized galleries. Time has come to reduce the acquisition of new objects and share the existing ones. Ideally, we would like to sell, or put at the disposal for exhibitions, entire, or at least large parts, of the galleries who form a coherent set of objects. Nevertheless, individual objects we sell and ship worldwide. The different galleries are by far not completed, numerous objects are waiting to be identified described and to be photographed. We also maintain a large library of close to 400 reference books and documents that can be consulted on or site. We are based in Switzerland, Lake Geneva Region. We don’t run an open gallery but on special request we can organize individual visits. Don't hesitate to contact us, or to send us your comments on a given object, we may have wrongly or incompletly identified.