Did you used to collect things when you were a kid? I collected rocks, stickers, erasers, pencils, and the occasional bug. I remember organizing each collection by worth--not monetary worth, but trading worth. (The sticker hierarchy was: scratch and sniff > fuzzy > sparkly > puffy > plain ole stickers. The only catch was you couldn't scratch the scratch and sniff stickers. That would devalue them!)
So as wild as Oran Z's collection-turned-museum is, the little kid in me could relate to the insatiable urge to collect things. Ultimately, Oran's passion led him to open Oran Z's Pan African Black Facts & Wax Museum on a stretch of Martin Luther King Blvd in Baldwin Hills. I first learned about the museum in a recent L.A. Weekly article. By the time I finished the article, I was already planning when to book a slot at this free appointment-only museum.
Oran met us in the back parking lot and led Brad and I into the main showroom. It's quite a sight. In one corner, a mannequin in Ku Klux Klan attire is encased in glass. In another, Nubian statues look stone faced across the room at wax figures of Buffalo Soldiers. Next to them, wax Mr. and Mrs. Obama enjoy the company of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Thurgood Marshall and Jesse Jackson.
One section titled "Black Inventions" is crammed with a wax figure of George Washington Carver, an old wooden juicer, gas masks, hypodermic needles and more. Oran Z describes himself as "just a collector," and even though his museum is packed, he has no intention of slowing down yet.
Oran is easy to talk to and is quick with jokes. Instead of a formal tour of the place, he let us explore on our own and ask questions about pieces when we had them.
I wondered how he funded this collection. "Have you seen Edward Scissorhands?" Oran asked me. Yes, that's one of my favorite movies. "You know his hair? That's my work." Woah! Before Oran moved to L.A., he invented a successful hair-weaving product called Hair Fusion. His profits funded a lot of his collection.
Oran's accomplishments are impressive on so many levels; he has a Liberation Radio Station, he's constantly thinking of new inventions, he hosts school field trips where children can learn more about African culture, and he reaches out to the community's youths.
Our tour was 1 hour long. To book your appointment, contact Oran through the number on his website.
Oran Z's Black Facts & Wax Museum