About Ethan Rider

Consider African knives. Their silhouettes are brilliant and evocative, and they look nothing like knives from anywhere else on the planet, from any period in time. As guns spread throughout the continent in the 19th century, the meaning and function of many African blades (throwing knives in particular) were forever changed. Objects that had been potent symbols of physical power for many generations maintained their visual significance, but lost their purpose, and so meaning was transferred from utility to symbol. At this point, African weapons, now unencumbered by their need to be functional, became objects solely of beauty and prestige. It is this moment in history that captivates me: the instant in which the distinction between art and function became perfectly and beautifully blurred.

I try to acquire pieces that stir me with their virtuosity, be it a farming sickle with a flash of brilliance or a prestige knife created solely to impress. 

The perfect balance of the best Mbanja throwing knife
The way in which a delicate Fur blade mimics the leaves of a plant
The abstraction of a Zulgo blade, which uses only one curved line to achieve beauty
The transformation of the goliath heron into a stunning and ferocious Teda blade
These are the details that invigorate me daily and reinforce that these objects merit placement alongside the world’s great art forms. 

I have been engaged in the business of selling, photographing, appraising, and researching African tribal art since 2004. My primary focus is photography, but I also exhibit at major art fairs and show by appointment in Oakland, CA. I have dedicated many years to cultivating my expertise in traditional African arms and also the material culture of the Tiv people of Nigeria. All works of art on my website are unconditionally guaranteed to be authentic and accurately described. To subscribe and receive updates about my website and activities, please register.  



My goal is to provide clients with top-quality photographs of their objects, and to create them in a convenient and affordable manner. My photography studio is entirely mobile, so objects can be photographed in my studio in San Jose, CA, or on location. Please contact me to discuss photographing your collection.


Events & Accolades

I actively participate in the tribal art community in a regular and meaningful way, and occasionally in the public forum. Below are a few recent highlights:

2017 - Photography published in HALI Magazine, Issue 191, Spring 2017. 



2017 - Three knives published in Published: Lefebvre, NGBANDI YAKOMA: Armes Traditionelles, 2017.


2017 – Photography exhibited in Sensual Assault photography and contemporary sculpture exhibition in Pioneertown (Joshua Tree), California.


2015 – Photography published in Indonesian Tribal Art. Bruce W. Carpenter (Didier Millet, Csi, 2015). 


2014 – Photography published (cover) in: The Kwagh-Hir Theater: A Weapon For Social Action. Iyorwuese Hagher (Lanham: University Press of America, Inc., 2014).


2013 - Lecture. "Monsters and Everyday Life in a Contemporary Nigerian Masquerade: the Bizarre Body Masks of the Tiv Kwagh-hir." Santa Barbara, California. 


2013 – Photography published in Igbo: Visions of Africa. Herbert Cole (Milan: 5 Continents Editions, 2013).


2013 - Appointment as National Chairman and Secretary of the Jerome Bunch Kwagh-hir Group, USA. EthanTiv2.jpg


2013 - Initiated as an active member of the Tiv tribe, Benue State, Nigeria.


2013 – Exhibitor at the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California.2013trio.jpg


2012 – “FOCUS” Photography exhibition featured at the SF Tribal 8th annual Tribal Art Show at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California.