Tuesday 3 May 2011

Beads & bottle-tops: rainbow nation creations

In a cobbled square in the heart of downtown Cape Town ...

... surrounded by historic buildings

... is Greenmarket Square, with a history going back to the 17th century when the first European trading ships berthed at the Cape of Good Hope en route to the east. 

It's been, more or less successively, a slave market, a trading place for goods and supplies for ships, a fruit and vegetable market, a parking lot, and a site of political protests in the apartheid era. 

Today it's a flea market with a distinctively African flavour, a venue for craftspeople, traders and dealers to sell their wares. 

In the maze of tightly packed stalls you can find everything from clothes, masks, hand-painted fabrics, glassware and curios, to a range of creative artefacts made from recycled materials ...

Batik paintings, wooden bowls and soapstone heads, above, and below right, chickens made from coloured plastic bags, porcupine quills, paper maché bowls made of labels of canned pilchards, wire and bead bowls.

Boy lost in thought (I liked his hat), above, and Zulu glass bead ornaments, below.

Colourful animal creations made of wire, beads and cans, below.

A Sengalese trader, below, shows off his collection of wooden masks from West Africa.

Anxious about sales?
No worries here ...

Buying and selling is only half of the story, though. This is a social and sociable place ...

(pull up a drum if you can't find a seat)
 a space to meet, hang out and chat ...

see and be seen in colourful threads ...

looking sharp ...

This man (below) demonstrated his battery-operated radios made entirely of telephone wire, bottle tops and strips of cans with a resurrected antenna ... they work perfectly!

T-shirts and ganja were on the menu here ...

This elderly craftsman, below, was busy making sculpted heads from stone ...

burnished, polished and painted ...

... the finished products laid out to dry on newspaper ...

What did we buy?

That will have to wait for another day ...


  1. I'm speechless so it's a good thing I've only got to type. I would love love love to repost this as a guest post? I will beg, but it tends to get ugly and there's already so much of that..

  2. So much colour, so much of interest and such crisp and clear photography.

  3. Hi Tracy - thanks, and I'm touched and flattered by your request. Sure you can, no need to beg at all! South Africa gets its share of bad publicity and I'm happy for people to see the friendly, hospitable side of this cultural melting-pot of a city.

  4. Dear Karen, Love these fabulous images. Those colorful dresses (one of your first photographs) are works of art. Are they fabrics arranged on the body or are they sewn garments? Karen, here is a business opportunity for you. I'll be your first customer.

  5. Ahhh, that market looks like a great place to visit. Such sunshine really accents the colors and the smiles.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you might have bought. (My favorites were the papier mache fish bowls!)


  6. Fun! Love the "no worries here" photo. I quite like those bowls, as well.

  7. Wonderful and so lively images! I nearly can hear and smell......!!!

    Just a very beautiful "South-African-reportage"!

    Enjoy your time there, many greetings from
    Old Europe, karin


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