The Parks and its African Art Treasures

image005If you’ve had a moment, you may have whizzed through a few of our other blogs and so are getting a sense of just how wonderful The Parks area in Northern Johannesburg is. If not, here’s a quick read-by of things on offer.

We have sprawling green parks (Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, Emmarentia Dam, Zoo Lake, Delta Park,  Melville Koppies and Melrose Bird Sanctuary). A few even have dams to row on, swim in or canoe over. There are golf courses, mountain bike opportunities and even a zoo.

What may also have become apparent is that you’re sure to find something to fit your pocket and needs if you’re looking for accommodation with personalised service. We have executive suites and conference facilities, boutique hotels, apartments or cottages, B&B’s or self catering. Some are even children and or pet friendly and they often offer specials.

The Parks’ suburbs are lined with majestic shady old trees, and wonderful village shopping opportunities. They all have easy access to the Johannesburg CBD, Sandton and Rosebank, highways and Gautrain, and we-have-everything shopping malls. Entertainment abounds for all ages with top class eateries, clubs, music venues, theatres and even tattoo parlours, but do you know about the delights of African art and crafts in the area?

If you wish to experience or buy traditional or contemporary African art and artefacts, our local tip is to visit these five shops – togu’na, Piece, Kim Sacks Gallery, African Queen and Art Africa. You might have a joyful and even an instructive experience. You’ll find baskets, beads, masks, ceramics, textiles, furniture, jewellery, dresses, handbags and accessories. Most everything, whether sourced from countries such as Mali, Ethiopia, Nigeria or Swaziland, or locally made in South Africa, have been hand-crafted.

So let’s start with togu’na situated at 235A Jan Smuts Avenue, Parktown North where you’ll find objects sourced from across the African continent. They are passionate about unique quality Africa artefacts and have a workshop that also restores or fumigates items. Each item has a story and there are many. I loved, sharing first place, the Swazi cactus lamp and Yoruba beaded chairs from Nigeria, closely followed in second place by the Baule fish mask from Ivory Coast.

togu’na also has a fascinating collection of implements which were used as currency from places such as Angola, Zambia, Cameroon and Chad. In my layman terms they are goodies that look like iron scythes and spears, wooden blades and copper crosses, and they are, possibly, more stylish than today’s credit cards.

Piece is in the heart of Rosebank’s The Firs. The central display is a white tree with its branches creating a canopied ceiling. I appreciate that the often long and arduous process of making crafts or art is recognised, nay praised, and that when we buy the beautiful wares we are “buying a piece of heart, a part of a soul, a moment of someone’s life.” Many famous visitors have left with pieces from here, filled with the heart and soul of Africa. This year Piece will give a platform to a series of curated collections starting with the Song of the Weaver by rural Swazi women. Perhaps you’ll pop-in regularly?

Not far along at 153 Jan Smuts Avenue, you’ll notice the ‘’clay-vessel” all terracotta walled and inviting. This is the Kim Sacks Gallery. It is creativity that is paramount here whether they are displaying what they call contemporary objects or old material culture, all of which can be shipped internationally. There is a contemporary and a tribal gallery and the items are a feast for the eyes and heart – if you require something more physical you can have a cup of tea there.

My favourites – one of the most endearing teddy bears I have ever seen, colourfully embroidered with deer, butterflies and flowers. Or the ceramic teapot with a leopard-handle. The leopard is eyeing out a bird at the top of the lid. Exquisite Arabian horse figures, or vases, jugs and bowls either sturdy or paper thin. Bright cushions and wall hangings – what a beautiful happy space to go to for the regular talks they hold.

Also on Jan Smuts Avenue is African Queen. If handbags are your thing, this is the shop for you. They also offer a “luxury private shopping experience for you and your girlfriends with champagne and a professional stylist”. Theirs is contemporary and functional wearable art made by local communities with a percentage of the turnover going to feeding schemes. They also have very funky dresses.

That leaves us with Art Africa, a well known stop for many tourists and Jozi tours. It’s nestled in Parkview on Tyrone Avenue (see our blog Parkview – a haven alongside Zoo Lake). They have a large selection of mobiles, games, sculptures and animals in tin or wood and loads more.

For me visits here are ecstatic colour infusions possibly because of my delight in items such as the wholly South African printed textiles which highlight our poplar brands – Marmite, Lucky Star pilchards or Impala maize meal. My secret: I have a Taureg necklace from here given as a birthday gift by a boyfriend, he had good taste, I didn’t.  I really hanker after the joyful taxi and bus metal key-ring pictures, full of South African narratives, perhaps I’ll get some for my next birthday (oops – was that subtle enough?)

Suffice it to say, if you’re in our area for business or pleasure, you will certainly give others delight if you take home something from one of these five treasure troves. Happy art and craft hun