Dusty Hind sculpts a career selling African art
When Colin “Dusty” Hind takes his eternal “dirt nap”, forget heaven, his spirit will be wandering the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It was there that the 80 year old fell in love with African sculpture, back in January 1983.
“The Michael C Rockefeller Wing had just opened,” he said. “I walked in and one of the first objects I saw was a Senufo fire splitter mask.”
The West African masks are used in funeral rites.
“A card said the mask was made from wood, cowrie shells, string and sacrificial material,” Mr Hind said. “The sacrificial material freaked me out a bit. I felt very alien and disoriented.”
After seeing the collection for the first time, he spent several hours reading about it in the museum’s restaurant.
“I went back to go into the Rockefeller Wing again and the guard said you can’t go in; it is 5pm and we are closing,” Mr Hind said. “At 10.30 the next morning I was on the steps waiting to go in. The next thing I knew the same guard was saying you will have to leave sir, it is 5pm. The collection had just consumed me.”
At 11pm that night, a Sunday, he went to the Wright Gallery on Broadway.
“There was a man called John from Mongolia doing stocktaking,” Mr Hind remembered. “I bought my first piece. It was a mask of a woman’s face with a bird on top. I still have it.”
He said with traditional wood carving, masks and figurines, the artist is usually not known. These objects are meant to be functional, used for the celebration of kinship, religious purposes or harvest festivals.
“They are danced,” he said. “Some figure are stuck into baskets with the bones of dead ancestors. They are meant to be guardian figures. The fact that we in the west hang them on the wall and call them art is very confusing to many people there.”
Mr Hind and his wife, Barbara O’Shaughnessy, made their first trip to Africa on their honeymoon in 1986. They visited Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa with a South African friend.
“It was an inaugural safari,” he said. “It was a case of Murphy’s Law. What could go wrong, did go wrong. There were vehicle breakdowns and tire punctures. We were stopped because there were feathers in the radiator. We must have hit a bird. The police fined us for not reporting an accident.”
But he said that trip was wonderful.
“We have been back more than 30 times,” he said.
He grew up in Portsmouth, Hampshire. As a young man, he went to the Portsmouth College of Art & Design to study sculpture and graphic design. A classmate there dubbed him ‘Dusty’ because he was always grubbier than everyone else.
“I seemed to attract plaster and wood dust,” he said.
When he came to Bermuda in 1962, to work as a policeman, the nickname came with him.
After a few years, he went into advertising, and then opened Aardvark Advertising in Hamilton in 1969.
“The advertising business was great fun,” Mr Hind said. “I loved it and enjoyed it for 30 years, but then it was time to do something different.”
He retired from advertising in 1998, but soon grew tired of playing golf.
At 57 he launched another career as an art dealer with the opening of the Crisson & Hind African Art Gallery specialising in art from Zimbabwe.
“My wife and I went back to Zimbabwe the year after I retired,” he said. “We bought 20 pieces and packed them into containers or flew them in, which was expensive.”
His last trip was in January 2020. Again, everything they bought was shipped to Bermuda.
“It arrived in June 2020,” Mr Hind said. “So I am one of the few store owners on the island right now that is actually overstocked.”
Three weeks ago he moved his entire inventory from Front Street to Queen Street, up the stairs, to the left of the Bermuda Bookstore.
The new space is crammed with African sculpture, traditional masks, jewellery and art. Next to each piece is the name and photo of the sculptor. Mr Hind is proud to represent Zimbabwean sculptors such as brothers Peter and Israel Chikumbirike.
“They are called the African Michelangelos,” he said.
Running the gallery has taken over his life.
“The joys of doing it are working with people who love what they do,” he said. “All of the artists I work with are driven to do this. They specialise in particular subjects. Peter Chikumbirike specialises in dancing girls and medicine men. Israel does families.”
Over the last two decades he has built a strong relationship with the artists he represents. He is the godfather of Israel Chikumbirike’s youngest daughter Gracious, for example.
“It has gone beyond business,” Mr Hind said. “I have been treated as an honoured elder at weddings and christenings. The weddings are wild. When a bride gets married her feet are not allowed to touch the ground. So they lay down a special cloth that the bride very carefully walks on. They have praise singers. It is wonderful. It sends prickles up the back of your neck and makes you cry.”
Mr Hind said he always pays market value for the art he purchases. In addition, over the years, he has also paid school fees and medical bills as part of payment for artwork. When one sculptor he worked with was drinking away his profits, the sculptor’s wife came to him and asked if Mr Hind would buy them a couple of cows. He did happily.
Mr Hind has more than 15 major pieces in his own private collection.
“A gallery is one of the worst places to experience sculpture,” he said. “You really have to have it in your home and live with it every day. The marvellous thing about sculpture or painting is that sculpture is assertive, perhaps even aggressive. It demands to be seen because it fills a void.”
He celebrates his 81st birthday on Saturday. He has no plans for retirement.
“Why would I do that,” he said. “I am having too much fun.”
He still loves visiting the MET in New York and tries to get there as often as possible.
He has two sons Michael and Peter Hind, and three grandchildren.
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens each week. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with the full name and contact details and the reason you are suggesting them