He gave most of it away to friends.
For the next 20 years, Gite crisscrossed the continent annually, collecting things to decorate his house and those of his friends. He went through three passports visiting Ghana, Cameroon, Zimbabwe and many other countries.
"Africa is such a magnificent place, with art that is as diverse as the people there," says Gite.
His passion for collecting turned into a business in 2005 when he opened The Gite Gallery, where he showcases fine art from 24 African countries.
The gallery, housed in a 1940 two-story, 2,200-square-foot home in the Third Ward, is a calling card for Gite's ability to integrate African art in home design.
"I wanted the gallery to look like my home, with a mixture of furniture and African art. I also wanted to give people an idea of how the art could look in their house," he says.
Gite painted the gallery's rooms in vibrant colors, including pumpkin, eggplant, lime-green and chocolate. He returned the wood floors to their original light-almond, satiny color and installed an ornate, 9-foot wrought-iron door from Mexico to add grandeur to the entry. A three-story statue of recycled stainless steel by local artist Mark Bradford — painted red to complement the home's accents — dominates the front yard.
"People fall in love with the art and the colors on the wall. When friends saw what I could do with a blank space, they told their friends. I have always had a knack for helping people do and re-do their homes," Gite says.
Though he prefers to call himself an art broker, Gite spends a lot of time selecting art for his clients and working with them to find the best place in their homes to showcase it. "I can walk into a space, size it up and tell people what I think they need."
He generally decorates using African acrylic and oil paintings. Some of the artists are well-known in Europe; others are known only in their African communities. "People see the color and vibrancy in the paintings, and they can't believe this comes out of Africa. The paintings resonate and speak to people."
Article originally appeared in Houston Chronicle.