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.  

The photo below is from Burkina Faso in 2006. 



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:



2023 – 100 African Blades, Vol. 2 reviewed in Tribal Magazine, Issue 107, Spring 2023. 

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2022 – My book 100 African Blades, Vol. 2 was selected for promotion as one of three new outstanding books by Tribal Art London.
            100 African Blades, Vol. 1 was discussed in an interview with collector Richard Clinton in the Tribal Art London Fair Catalogue.
            Catalogue viewable here: PDF



2021 – Worked with the MFA (Boston) to evaluate and improve the cataloging of their African blade collection. 



2021 — My book "100 African Blades" featured on the popular African art blog ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA, accessible here



2021 — Exhibitor at the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Art Show



2020 — My photography of African knife groups featured on the popular African art blog ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA, accessible here



2020 — Eight knives published in Lefebvre, The Throwing Knives: The Southern Knives (Volume 2)



2019 - Bass player and Producer on the new release: Dave Cope & The Sass.




2019 - Presentation of my book to the King of the Tiv, His Royal Majesty, Tor Tiv V James Ortese Iorzua Ayatse.



2019 - Lecturer at MUTA (Mutual Union of Tiv in America): "Perpetuating the Kwagh-Hir and Preserving Tiv Cultural Heritage," Hanover, MD. 




2019 — 22 knives published in Lefebvre, The Throwing Knives: The Northern Knives (Volume 1).

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2018 – Essay on throwing African throwing knives published on the popular Bruno Claessens blog, accessible here.



2018 - Expose about the fantastic "African" blades of the Austrian blacksmith Tilman Hebeisen published in TRIBAL Magazine.



2018 - A writeup on our new book on the Kwagh-Hir masquerade was published on the popular African art blog ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA, accessible here.



2018 – Exhibitor at the San Francisco Tribal & Textile Arts Show, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, California.


2018 – After eight years of research, “Something Magical: The Kwagh-Hir of the Tiv” was finally published in February. An extensive and groundbreaking survey of the colossal and colorful masks of the Tiv’s Kwagh-Hir theater, with essays by Mnena Abuku, Richard Bunch, Iyorwuese Hagher, Sydney L. Kasfir, and Ethan Rider. Hardcover: 320 pages ISBN: 978-0-692-98547-2. The book is available at www.bfppublishing.com.jacket.jpg


2017 — Photography published in Cole, Maternity: Mothers and Children in the Arts of Africa.

2017 – Analysis of inauthentic knives published on the popular blog ÌMỌ̀ DÁRA, accessible here.IMO.jpg

2017  Curator of "Looking Sharp" African knife exhibition at Hamill Gallery, Boston


2017 - Consultant to the History Channel for Forged in Fire Season 4, episodes 11 & 12, Master & Apprentice, and Ngombe Ngulu. Photography also published in the episodes.


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

2017 - Photography published in HALI Magazine, Issue 191.


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


2015 – Photography published in Carpenter, Indonesian Tribal Art.CarpenterCombo.jpg


2014 – Photography published (cover) in Hagher, The Kwagh-Hir Theater: A Weapon For Social Action.



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 Cole, Igbo: Visions of Africa.Visions.jpg


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



2013 - Formally initiated as a member of the Tiv tribe, Benue State, Nigeria.sweet2.jpg


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.rider6.jpg