Antiques from Africa # 1

THE ANTIQUARIAN | For me to stand out in London at a top international antique fair I have found that being true to my roots and being African can produce the goods.

Antique Rhino comes to London

As the rain arrives and Cape Town finds itself in winter mode – read a good English summer’s day here, I am getting ready to be like a swallow and migrate to London. Sounds like madness, who would really want to leave Franschhoek the ‘gourmet capital of the country’ and travel to the land of the pasty?

More to the point who in his right mind would travel 5,000 miles to try and sell antiques to the Brits?

‘Bit like taking coal to Newcastle!’ said a friend to me a few years ago when I began to plan my international career as an antique dealer. But firstly let me give you some background. My name is Jeremy and I run a shop – an antique shop in Franschhoek in the Western Cape.  I opened it in 1994 just after the first democratic elections led by the iconic Nelson Mandela and we saw the incredible future that South Africa could have.

It began as a really small shop selling any ‘outhede’ – here read anything owned by granny that I could sell and make a few bucks off. It has grown into one of the more unusual shops that boasts a corkscrew collection believed to be the largest in Africa. Why corkscrews you will ask – well when opening a shop in the winelands you need a worm for the hook and corkscrews did just that. We currently have over 800 different examples on our display wall – all for sale and all different.

I cannot tell you how often people come into the shop and laugh about the name until they turn and see the wall for themselves. Amazement and then sometimes a sale has helped us stay in business. Ok so why the jump to London in ‘summer’? Well summer in the UK, especially London, means the gathering has begun.

There are three major art and antique fairs in London in June and I am showing at the first. It is the Olympia Art & Antiques fair and takes place at the Olympia exhibition centre in the Grand Hall. This year is the 41st staging and is the largest of the three events with around 200 exhibitors.

So what do I take halfway around the globe that can compete with the best in my world? This year I have a variety of African antiques and collectables. I have original Boer War drawings, Ndebele beadwork and Kalahari pottery. The Kalahari pottery was established in 1949 and for ten years produced work epitomised by the wall plates that when hung on the wall of my stand reach out and confuse the average local who stares in wonder at the profusion of colour and texture. Once they have recovered from the shock and realise that I also have some really good silver – English that is, they will chat and sometimes end up buying something.

For me to stand out in London at a top international antique fair I have found that being true to my roots and being African can produce the goods.

Next week I will let you know if the rent is being paid.