24 December 2010 by Kate Turkington

Best Buys to take home

Yes, you can snap up that snazzy peak with South Africa emblazoned on it. Or the T-shirts with their bewildering array of messages. Or the colourful place mats and handmade candles. Or the ubiquitous handcarved wooden giraffes which leave our shores in their thousands every month. (I think our economy might collapse without this popular staple.)

But the best buys are those you buy at the roadside - the intricately made beaded animals of all shapes and sizes - made with such precision and attention to detail that they really are works of art.

The fancy, upmarket curio shops sell them, but rather go for the roadside trader - often homeless and with a family to support. Just before Christmas I bought two most beautiful and amazingly wrought animals from a vendor at a traffic light. (I had to drive along and find a place to park as he came chasing after me waving a kudu bull and a gemsbok/ oryx,)

“How do you know what these animals look like?” I asked him.

“When I was a little boy growing up in Mpumalanga, near Kruger Park, I saw them in the bush.”

“But how do you remember all these details?”

He gave a broad grin.

“I saved up and bought myself an animal book.”

The kudu and oryx now have pride of place in my home. And their talented and cheerful maker told me that now he could go now go home for Christmas with the money he’d earned from his work.

You can buy big things or little things, but these beaded mementos will become future treasures and always remind you of your trip to South Africa.

Category: Adventure

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