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March 03, 2011

Johannesburg's Best Shops

Courtesy Art Africa

The best shops in Johannesburg for finding tribal art, local crafts and world-class design.

This past fall, en route to an East African safari, I stopped off for two days in Johannesburg, South Africa. As a collector of tribal art, I was excited to see what I could find there. From my base at the Saxon Boutique Hotel (rooms, from $950; saxon.co.za)—a former private residence transformed into 53 exotic suites—I was able to explore many neighborhoods while on the hunt for local handcrafted items. Here’s where I found some of my favorite pieces, many of which are now proudly on display at my house in upstate New York.

Amatuli Fine Art

Mark Valentine recently moved his 20-year-old store to a huge, three-story Kramerville space that holds thousands of African furnishings and decorative items. The volume can be overwhelming, but treasures abound: carved crocodiles from Swaziland (from $200), feathered headdresses from Cameroon ($130) and an endless supply of traditional baskets and masks (from $40). $ At 6 Desmond St., Kramerville; 27-11/024-4686.

Kim Sacks Gallery

A potter by profession, Sacks has a gallery-cum-store filled with museum-quality furniture, sculpture, jewelry, textiles, pottery and glassware by local craftsmen. Standouts include a 1940s leather and wood chair from Ethiopia ($330) and intricate wire statues by Samuel Musharu (from $7,000). At 153 Jan Smuts Ave., Parkwood; 27-11/447-5804.

Dish

This Parkhurst shop sells contemporary ceramics handmade on-site. Owner Sharon Thompson specializes in mosaics found on everything from tiny teapots (from $70) to large tables (from $2,090). At 38 6th St., Parkhurst; 27-11/447-1071; dishmosaic.co.za.

Art Africa

Located on a charming Parkview street lined with cafés and bookstores, this tiny craft emporium is perfect for finding authentic gift items like hand-beaded bracelets (from $5), leather sandals (from $35) and stacks of Kuba cloths (from $40), baskets (from $10) and African masks (from $40). At 62 Tyrone Ave., Parkview; 27-11/486-2052.

Objekt

This shop is the vision of Susanne Allers, who collects and commissions pieces from a roster of South African designers. Some of the items are a bit kitsch, but there are elegant ostrich-eggshell necklaces (from $115) and bold black-and-white ceramic bowls (from $15). At 32 7th Ave., Parktown North; 27-11/447-6005; objekt.co.za.

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Everard Read Gallery

Founded in 1912, Everard Read has become one of South Africa’s most respected centers for fine and contemporary art. Now housed in a landmark postmodern building in the vibrant Rosebank neighborhood, the gallery features everything from Dylan Lewis’s massive feline figures (from $13,950) to Thea Soggot’s ephemeral human sketches (from $5,580), on display through March 9. At 6 Jellicoe Ave., Rosebank; 27-11/788-4805; everard-read.co.za.

African Craft Market

Open seven days a week, this traditional market by the Mall of Rosebank sells all the requisite tribal items, but the real finds require a careful eye—ebony salad servers, buffalo-horn salt and pepper shakers, crocodile wallets and even jewelry made from mammoth bone. $ At the corner of Craddock Ave. and Baker St., Rosebank; craft.co.za.

African Queen Arts

Born and raised on the Ivory Coast, owner Reine Osso (known as “Queen”) has been dealing fine African art in Jo’burg since 1994. She travels to places like Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria to find authentic woodcarvings (from $170), bongos (from $210), bronze sculpture and tribal shields (from $40), which she often ships to devoted clients all over the world. At 147 Corlett Dr., Bramley; africanqueenarts.com.

$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.