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 consulting firm. Besides my professional travels, I undertook extensive overland journeys to Africa, the Middle East, South-East and Central Asia. Spending hours on markets and with artisans, observing and researching their traditional crafts and techniques. My profound affection of the land and peoples visited and first-hand knowledge of traditional cultures as well a their 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 final visual 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 which form a coherent set of objects. Nevertheless, individual objects we sell and ship worldwide. The different galleries are by far not completed, and 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 incompletely identified.
Site structure: The site is based on 26 galleries, each gallery composed of several categories of objects. Each item is accompanied by information and references to provide a deeper appreciation and understanding. Clicking on the picture of an object opens a detail page with additional information and zoomable images. On the bottom of the page, you can always choose to show all items of the entire gallery. Clicking on the logo in the upper left corner will bring you back to the home page. Under category, you have the option of sorting the presentation according to various criteria's or refine your research according to keywords, origin, material or quality. Under "My List" you can create your own selection of items. As a registered user, you can save your lists or edit them under a PDF format. You are a gallery or museum; the items of our collection are available for loan for your temporary exhibitions. The site is still under construction; only some galleries are completed, others still need to be finalised. Today over 1500 objects are online.