I’ve always loved markets. There’s just something about them: the promise of being able to find hidden treasure at the next stall you visit or of finding that unique item that you’d never find in a conventional shop. And then there’s that lovely relaxed feeling you get in a market, that feeling that you don’t need to rush and you’ve got all the time in the world to browse to your heart’s content.
Maybe that’s one of the reasons why, with the increasing pressure we feel in our everyday lives, there’s been such an increase in the number of markets you can find popping up all over the place these days. True, they mainly operate over the weekends and during the holidays, but there’s all types: organic, clothing, food, farmers, indoors, outdoors, night markets, flea markets … you pretty much get my drift!
But in the heart of one of Joburg’s trendiest shopping districts, amidst the brand names, right next to the Rosebank Mall lays an Aladdin’s cave of African treasure: The Rosebank Art & Craft Market! It’s open daily and is an active hub for traders from all over Africa to display and sell their diverse wares. Thank you so much to Hello Joburg magazine for giving me a wonderful opportunity to explore this hidden gem!
I was given the opportunity to chat with Themba, who’s actually from Malawi, but who’s been working at this market since 2012, before it even moved to its current location. He proudly manages the proudly South African stall where he works for the owners who spend their time sourcing the goods they sell. The beadwork is out of this world!
A firm and instantly recognisable favourite is the much loved Ndebele doll. Handmade in Mpumalanga, the intricate detail on each one is truly incredible. Every doll is unique, as only a handmade piece can be. Themba then demonstrated how Rojans (read that carefully) are worn, either on the head or as necklaces. These also have bangles to match and are all made in Durban. After that he showed me how the famous Ndebele neckpieces are layered. Next was the extremely popular beaded cutlery. Themba wires these himself and can wire a set of salad servers in under a minute! His mom then does the beading. These make great gifts, and one needs to appreciate that someone’s hands have taken the time to create them, as has been done with the all the items sold here.
We chatted about the international visitors to the market and about how many enjoy bartering as part of the tourist experience. Themba thoroughly enjoys meeting people from all over the world, and chatting to them about South Africa. He would, however, like more South Africans to come and visit the market.
There is such heart in this market, and a camaraderie between the stall-holders that’s clearly evident. They’re proud of what they’re selling and they want you to take it all in, in all of its sensory excess of colours and sounds; to look, to touch, to realise that they place value in the items that they’re displaying here, to understand the meaning that some of these pieces might have to them and to their cultures.
Take some time to stroll through the Rosebank Art & Craft Market. You won’t regret it, and you probably won’t leave empty handed either! People travel across the world to come to Africa. We’re so lucky to call it home, and to have an African market like this right on our doorstep. There’s nothing quite like being a tourist in your own city!