Two Nelson Mandela’s: Online shop brings you stylish furniture and art

Image copyright The Two Nelson Mandela’s Image caption The two red burghers of Bloemfontein – Nelson Mandela in the right, and Thabo Mbeki, now South Africa’s president, in the left Image copyright TMTWorld Shop…

Two Nelson Mandela's: Online shop brings you stylish furniture and art

Image copyright The Two Nelson Mandela’s Image caption The two red burghers of Bloemfontein – Nelson Mandela in the right, and Thabo Mbeki, now South Africa’s president, in the left

Image copyright TMTWorld Shop site

Who’s in with a chance?

That’s the motivation behind The Two Nelson Mandela’s.

The 14-month old online retail site, which trades from Stockhouse Design in Bloemfontein, is one of the few internet shops dedicated exclusively to selling furniture and decor from the outside of the Cape Town – and the small towns – around it.

In Bloemfontein, home to six million people – of whom 1 million are black – there are mainly two distinguishing features.

One, the streets are dotted with shops. Many of them have sprung up in the run-up to the World Cup which this year marks 20 years since Nelson Mandela was arrested and led in a van from the police station to court.

On Robben Island, one of the jailers’s houses now houses a notary and local staff while on duty day and night, they are supposedly protected by barbed wire.

And, two, there is the hidden world of black artists in Bloemfontein.

A woman called Mavumulo lives at the bottom of the hill, amid dozens of others dotted around the town’s streets.

She and her chums sell bathmats and catkins, but they also work on commission on an art wood sculpture project for the Nelson Mandela Charitable Trust.

“That’s the biggest project in Bloemfontein,” said Mavumulo.

“It’s taking something that could have ended up as a waste material and turning it into something commercial. We have to market it. To do that you need a shop on the site.”

That’s the aim of the shop, which started a little more than a year ago, but is now one of the community’s biggest employers.

Image copyright The Two Nelson Mandela’s Image caption Anna Jabbour, a curator of World Cup art

Anna Jabbour is the curator of art products from all over the world which sell on the site.

“I don’t like art just because it’s a black thing or a white thing. My interest is in the place itself,” she said.

“There is art for sale that is good and beautiful, but what we are aiming for is something that serves the people.”

Anna Jabbour is currently selling some of her own art.

She has two children and works from home while she starts up a handicraft project and builds on her skills at the Sixth Factory.

It’s a great role model, her son Matekwa says.

“It’s being able to come in and not have to go anywhere else to buy art. You can go to their shop – whoever you like. And it’s affordable,” he said.

Architect Eric Hatem is responsible for the layout of the shop.

Image copyright The Two Nelson Mandela’s Image caption The shop features artwork made by gifted creative people and by the town’s artists

He first came to Cape Town in 2001 and found himself drawn to the town’s unique blend of liberal arts and traditional design.

“It was quite incredible seeing Bloemfontein compared to most places in the country,” he said.

“But as I moved around, what struck me was this really strong community spirit.

“There are a lot of creative folks out there in Bloemfontein who might have a talent but maybe don’t have a big following.”

He is working with local artists and is raising money for them and craftsmen through online shops.

His brainchild really struck a chord with people.

Image copyright The Two Nelson Mandela’s Image caption Eric Hatem has been involved in a group project to create furniture in Cape Town’s Cape Town Market in partnership with Johannesburg’s Maskrechenweizenberg Centre

The South African government’s Design for Africa shop has had a unique and successful integration of art into the delivery of social services.

The chair is titled Maeraku, which means rainbow in Sotho.

However, there is no presence in Cape Town, so there is a real desire for such a shop in Bloemfontein.

A site like this, could help change perceptions about black people in a predominantly white area.

And, the fact that there is no formal art education in Bloemfontein means there is no shortage of creatives who could be encouraged to produce work on the site.

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