It is a basement full of surprises. The Rosebank Art and Craft market is an adventure. Previously trafficked almost exclusively by tourists, the pandemic has not only squeezed traders to turn their sights locally but, according to manager Jackson Moyo, South Africans seem to have also woken up to the incredible stuff created, manufactured and imagined on our continent. And local trade is presently keeping the 114 or so traders afloat.
“Covid decimated the market, almost instantly,” says Moyo who knows every market trader by name, can explain the origin of every fabric, curio and statuette in the market. His enthusiasm is infectious.
“But almost every stallholder remains optimistic and only 2% of our traders have shut up shop.” He says that while the market is much quieter than before, there has been a sustained uptick of locals, now exploring continental art and craft. “It is very encouraging to see trade return to the market and,” he says, “it’s customers that may have never considered visiting before.” This bodes well for business when tourism eventually recovers, too.
[WATCH] The African Art and Craft Market in Rosebank has started attracting a host of local shoppers who have rediscovered the beauty of homegrown continental art.
In support of the traders the Rosebank Mall, the market’s landlord, also brings the market into the mall between Fridays and Sundays to aid with visibility. It is called the African Lane. It features around half of the traders each week. Mel Jeffries, Marketing Manager of Rosebank Mall, says the market is an important and vibrant hub in the Rosebank community.
African Lane is a ‘Support Small Business’ concept, offering a rich diversity of authentic and proudly African products at affordable local prices, by artists and traders from several African countries, including South Africa, Ghana, Congo, Cameroon, Malawi, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Many of the artisans make their works on site. “It really is a privilege to be able to see how some of the traders create pieces,” says Moyo. “And watching them in action, especially delicate beadwork for example, it reminds of how these millennia-old skills have been passed form generation to generation.”
He adds that having the space not only to trade, but to create, is what makes the Rosebank Arts and Crafts Market special. “It’s a cliché by now but we have so much talent in Africa, and it’s time that we realise and appreciate it.”
Jeffries adds that the African Lane experience at the Rosebank Art & Craft Market offers the ideal opportunity for Gautengers and guests to the area to discover new-found colour-rich treasures, to stroll the walkways and be inspired, to admire the imagination and skill that goes into each intriguing product, and to shop with a conscience, knowing that supporting African Lane is building sustainable livelihoods for many households. “There are many reasons to visit African Lane,” she says, “but the best one is that it’s always an uplifting and rewarding experience.”