If you’re in South Africa and find yourself admiring the many African artefacts that can be found dotted around the country’s finest hotels and safari lodges, you will soon discover that almost every smart safari lodge and chic interior design shop sells a small selection – but at a price. So, do as the interior designers who create the hotels and lodges do, and head to one of Johannesburg’s best-kept secrets – Amatuli.
Owned by Mark Valentine, who travels all over Africa, from Mali and Senegal to Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and almost anywhere else you care to name to track down authentic African pieces, it is a vast warehouse where every room, as well as the courtyard, is crammed with wonderful pieces.
You could buy anything from a carved wooden African “star” chair (so called because the seat is angled so that as you loll in it your gaze is directed up to the stars) to a giant wooden sculpture of an oryx, snake or fish. There are beaded Yoruba chairs, African dolls (which I collect every time I visit), trading beads (I have a brilliant necklace I bought for £35), masks (I once bought a collection of five from Cameroon and they grace my fireplace to this day) and lots, lots more.
Not only is there masses of choice but, since he’s really a wholesaler, the prices – from R39 (£3) to around R21,000 (£1,800) – are a fraction of those charged in the fancy shops.