Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

1. How did you get your start?

I started as an anthropologist in the 1970s living at Ajanta in the Deccan, the site of the renowned Buddhist cave paintings. My sister had opened a shop, STOCK in Covent Garden, and asked me to source items.

I made friends with the Waghri tribals selling old Gujarati and Banjara embroideries on the pavements behind the Taj hotel in Mumbai. We are still friends and I still deal in Banjara embroidery, which is vibrant and strong like the people who made them.

2. How has the market changed?

It has changed totally. In the 1970s, hippy nomadic dresses and Baluch trappings from Afghanistan and Andean weavings were popular. It was an amazing time and there are plenty of old hippies still in the trade.

In the 1980s textiles were in the doldrums and copied ad infinitum. Now there is a growing recognition of how much tribal knowledge has been lost and that the best ought to be saved, cherished and put out there for the world to appreciate.

I worry about the state of the trade when I hear of yet another gallery closed down but there are lots of fairs small and big both in this country and Europe where you can find what you are looking for in any niche field.

3. Where do you consider the centrepoint of your trade to be?

London is arguably the best city in the world to find tribal textiles, although this is a very small part of the tribal art market, which is focused around sculpture. Remember though that India was the centre of the world’s textile trade for 3000 years and influenced textile production in even the remotest Indonesian village and across Africa.

4. Why Tribal Art London?

It is convenient, affordable, excellently run and located in a beautiful space on the Mall. It is a brilliant location and the pageantry of tribal art is brought home to us in the context of empire. I am fortunate to have a large wall on which to display textiles, which need a lot of space to read properly.

One rule do you live by as a dealer?

Buy what you love and learn by. There are things to find everywhere at every budget.

How do you use the internet?

I am not up to speed on the internet and social media but with a gallery open all year it is difficult to do and be everything. There is online information overload which saps our appreciation. I personally prefer to use my eyes’ limited energy to look at nature or directly at the object in all its detail.

5. Real ale or espresso martini?

Real ale – show me a pub…


If you would like to be featured in 5 Questions, please contact francesallitt@antiquestradegazette.com