Buying traditional crafts in South Africa is not difficult. There are stalls on almost every street corner. There are also some great markets, such as Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, and the Rosebank Craft Market in Johannesburg. There are also many curio shops and many museums and hotels also have shops. However if you are looking for something out of the ordinary -you need to look a little more carefully.
In the Cape, you can have hours of fun window shopping the boutiques and antiques stores in Long Street, Woodstock and Kalk Bay, Simonstown and Stellenbosch. And while Kwazulu-Natal may not have great fine art, when it comes to traditional crafts, it has some wonderful alternatives. This list gives you a few of the better places to start hunting a unique work of art.
One more thing to note - while there are many exciting artists in South Africa, many of the works you are offered come from elsewhere in Africa, particularly Zimbabwe. If you specifically want something South African, ask about the work's origins.
For those who are serious about craft and design, Cape-based tour operator, Cape Insights offer specialist holidays from day tours to full design-based holidays.
African Art Centre
The African Art Centre has been going in one form or other for over 50 years, but since the handover of power has turned into a not-for-profit organisation providing support, training and sales for hundreds of local artists. You can find an extraordinary array of work from antique bead and basketwork to funky painted clogs and boots and designer jewellery, textiles and ceramics. Look out for work by names such as the Nala family, renowned potters, whose work is displayed has elevated the traditional Zulu beer pot to an art form.
94 Florida Road, Morningside, Durban
Tel: +27 31 312 3804/5
In 1992, Austrian millionaire, Hugo Bartel left money to the city of Durban to start an Arts Trust and so the BAT Centre was born - a multi-purpose centre for music gigs, art exhibitions, with cafés and restaurants and with an array of shops showcasing the best of local arts, crafts and music. The building is a former Navy building overlooking the small crafts harbour. Keep an eye out for events as well as shopping here. More about shopping in Durban ...
45 Maritime Place, Small Craft Harbour, Durban
Tel: 031 332 0451
One of Johannesburg's best known craft shops, Art Africa has two sections. One concentrates on an extraordinarily witty, seriously cool collection of items from South Africa, many of them recycled and made by self-help groups in self-help groups in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. The back section of the shop has an eclectic range of goods from right across Africa - wooden headrests from Ghana, heavy silver jewellery from Ethiopia, tactile stone carvings from Zimbabwe and all with that wonderful smoky woody smell that is so typical of craft shops in Africa. They have a sister establishment in Knysna on the Garden Route.
62 Tyrone Ave, Parkview, Johannesburg
Tel: 011 486 2052
Kim Sacks Gallery
With a building that looks more like a Sahara fortress (apart from the jacaranda trees), with soaring exhibition space inside and carefully chosen works from all parts of the African continent, the work here is really the fine knife-edge of craft as art. Stunning individual pieces, magnificently creative and created, are displayed in mouthwatering splendour with regularly changing special exhibitions.
153 Jan Smuts Avenue Parkwood, Johannesburg
Tel: +27 11 447 5804
A broad-based art and design shop, Africa Nova believes in marrying the best of everything - tribal and contemporary, black and white. Here you will find sleek modern ceramics sitting next to traditional Zulu pottery, Ghanaian kente cloth next to South African potato print textiles, bags made from recycled plastic bags next to the most elaborate Xhosa beadwork. But everything will be beautifully made, interesting, mixing form and function with tactile satisfaction. An Aladdin's Cave.
72 Waterkant Street,
Green Point, Cape Town
Tel: +27 21 425 5123
Founded in 2000, Streetwires now employs over 120 people and sells all over the world. This shop isn't the only place to buy their products (you can even buy online from abroad) but if you want to meet the artists, have a guided tour - or even have a go at some wire art yourself - this is the place to come. The range of goods on offer is amazing, from bowls and beakers, mats and lights, to tables and chairs, earrings and even working radios! There are also one-off artworks.
77 Shortmarket Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
Tel: +27 21 426 2475
In 1999, a group of local women got together and with the help of designer Carrol Boyes, set up Monkeybiz, a sustainable not-for-profit organisation that provides skills training, support and the opportunity generate an income to local bead women. Today, over 450 women work as bead artists, many of them living in the Cape townships, many of them living with HIV. The piecework allows them to work from home. The profits are ploughed back into the community in range of programmes from soup kitchens and food parcels to organic gardening, helping with the costs of funerals and starting a project for recycling rubber into art. Meantime, even without the good works, the art is fun, lively, clever and creative - and well worth buying, whether you choose a beaded giraffe, a doll or a set of coasters.
43 Rose Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town
Tel: +27 21 426 0145