WORDS & PHOTOS Lisa Johnston
Amatuli has grown from a fleamarket venture to a major decor hub in Kramerville, where international clientele can browse and buy objects from all over the world. In the new April/May 2014 VISI, we featured the house of Mark and Christine Valentine, owners of Amatuli.
The modern world owes much to nomads and traders. From ancient times the silk and spice routes played a major role in the exchange of goods and raw materials as well as cultural and artistic ideas that have shaped the world as we know it today.
While it might not exactly be Palmyra or Petra, in the eyes of Amatuli’s owners and nomadic traders – Elize van der Merwe, Mark Valentine and Christine Valentine – the innocuous peri-industrial land of Kramerville, Johannesburg is transforming into an important node on an international decor and design route.
“On any given day you might meet a top international designer, a New York antiquities dealer or a Cameroonian trader who has come to explore here. It’s a fun place to be,” says Mark. “The area is growing organically into a legitimate design hub… It’s developing from an ugly place in a great location, into an exciting area with a diversity of bars and restaurants.”
As one of the original decor businesses in the area – situated conveniently close to Rosebank and Sandton – Amatuli is at the centre of this cross-pollination of designers, architects, foodies, fabric houses and furniture suppliers. Crammed full of beads, baskets, heavy wooden furniture, masks, figurines, light shades, vases and just about any other object you can imagine, Amatuli is an ever changing showcase for beautiful found objects and aesthetic treasures.
To step inside the multi-storey warehouse is akin to browsing an international souk with tribal antiquities from Africa, Asia and India rubbing shoulders with curios and knickknacks. Amatuli’s owners all embark on frequent buying trips and try to personally obtain their objects as close to the source as possible. “We love to explore, the world is our playground,” says Mark. “If someone can’t find what they are looking for we say ‘come back on Thursday’, our stock changes all the time.”
The only certainty seems to be that the owners will continue to have fun while their business grows around them. The additions of Katy’s Palace Bar and the recent launch of Sir James van der Merwe Wednesday Bar Nights is as much about adding to the new vibrancy of the area as it is about the owners’ social needs. “We wanted to create places where we want to hang out,” says Elize.
“As a small operation this is the most exciting business around,” says Mark. “We experiment and explore. Most of the time we don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next.”
Amatuli, 6 Desmond Street, Kramerville, Johannesburg, 011 440 5065, firstname.lastname@example.org