Pictures: World's largest African bronze collection has stories to tell

By Allison Walker Torres, Entertainment Reporter/Anchor
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 15, 2017, 3:44 PM EDT

Almost 40 years ago, Rawlvan Bennett saw something in a window that would ultimately change his path in life.

  • World's largest collection of African bronze on display in Orlando
  • Bronze Kingdom exhibit has more than 2,000 pieces of art
  • Some pieces from Benin, Bamoun kingdoms date to early 1600s

“It all started with one mask," the Bronze Kingdom CEO told us, referring to the mask that's detailed in the gallery above.

Bennett's curiosity was piqued when he moved to South Africa about seven years ago. That’s when he discovered bronze.

“I hadn’t seen too much of that in the U.S.," the collector told us. "I hadn’t seen too much of that anywhere."

Bennett now has more than 2,000 pieces from all over the continent, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal and The Republic of the Congo, which comprises the world's largest collection of African bronze.

He says he's particularly proud of the grand palatial pieces from the Benin and Bamoun tribal kingdoms, some dating back to the early 1600s.

Bennett selected guys known as field collectors to acquire these sculptures from African villages — after the Villages gave permission.

“And out there, [the field collectors] have to fast while they make a new piece, remove the spirit from the piece that we are collecting and put it in the new piece so we can take the new piece," he explained. "That person is out there for 30 days.”

Some of the pieces are life-size, while others are larger than life.

“Sometimes, it may take a year or two years to complete a single piece," he said.

The museum's curator, Philip Ringler, says the African tribal stories are rarely told in our textbooks. He says his job is comparable to "detective work."

“In order for me to find out this information, I have to contact different sources all over the world," Ringler said. "I have to contact different anthropologists and art historians.”

Bronze Kingdom is at 8249 Parkline Blvd., Suite 400, in Orlando. Showroom hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children under 12​.