Kramerville Hub: Amatuli Artefacts

PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Helen Herimbi

The treasure hunter behind Amatuli Artefacts has found a home for his astounding collection of curiosities in an eclectic building in Kramerville.

I’m more of a collector than a dealer says Mark Valentine, looking around the back area of the Amatuli Artefacts showroom in Kramerville, where found objects are for sale. From Yoruba staffs to old vacuum cleaners, the objects in here have been allocated prices. But when it comes to his own collection of artefacts from all over the world, which mean more to him than a sale, the businessman says, “There are many – some I haven’t seen in 10 years!”

Mark beams when he talks about his passion, a brand that was established in 1988 and that “started in a vaguely ugly building where we sold woodwork things”. After many years on Corlett Drive, Mark and Amatuli co-owners Elize van der Merwe and Christine Valentine decided it was time for a move. “Kramerville is the fastest-moving vaguely legitimate design area in South Africa at the moment,” says Mark. Looking to create “an emporium for Amatuli”, they first bought a warehouse that is now the Weylandts showroom. Then they bought the four-storey building on Desmond Street that soon became the venue for after-work drinks and Mark’s 50th birthday party. “I pay no rent for the view from Maboneng to the Cradle of Humankind,” Mark says. It’s this view and the eclectic finds inside that have made people want to rent the space for special occasions.

On the ground floor, one is greeted by the unmistakably African yet cosmopolitan decor of Milk Bar, which is in front of the Amatuli Artefacts showroom. A coffee shop and intimate eatery that has a chesterfield in one nook and charming tchotchkes in others, Milk Bar is the first of a planned franchise in the province.

Overseen by Rob Laing, Milk Bar is based on the story of three characters. Borrowing from the tale of how coffee was discovered in Ethiopia’s Sidama Valley, Tekalign is a goat herder-cum-coffee-trader who perfects the art of brewing coffee. On a mission to share his brew with the world, he meets an artefacts trader and adventurer named Manasse in Rwanda and falls in love with Amina in Tanzania, who represents the brand’s love for food. “Milk Bar is the coming together of these characters and the places they’re from,” says Rob.

David Ballam portraits shot in the Omo River Valley in Ethiopia line the walls, and anything from ’80s bubblegum to contemporary Afropop plays softly in the background. Fynbos gin is served alongside 2M beer from Mozambique, Tafel Lager from Namibia, Black Label quarts and Coca-Cola in small vintage glass bottles. Notably, Milk Bar supports ethical sourcing and fair trade, is supplied by Bean There, and serves Ethiopian and Rwandan single origin coffee and a blend from Ethiopia and Burundi.

On the first floor is the Sir James van der Merwe Bar – a composite of Mark’s son’s first name and Elize’s surname. In this popular Wednesday evening venue, Mark’s love of all things vintage is displayed through a combination of armchair sophistication and nostalgia thanks to distressed chairs, fading posters and more.

Katy’s Palace Bar, named after Mark’s daughter, is a palatial space on the third floor that is characterised by matching furniture and clean lines.

Above that is what Mark calls his man cave. Take a look around this apartment and it becomes clear what he means when he says he’s more of a collector than a dealer.