Mark Valentine’s reputation as an intrepid traveller and merchant of genuine African and Asian relics supersedes him. He’s been at it for more than 25 years and still travels every six weeks, personally sourcing the goods he sells. His man cave, as he dubs it, was built four floors above Amatuli as an occasional substitute to home – it’s the answer to his nomadic existence, and the late nights spent at his successful function venues.
Picture Livingstone’s modern day pied à terre and you’ll have an idea. An armoury of found objects, carved figures and artefacts fills the bright space from markets, rural tribes and far-flung villages. ‘I collect a lot of utilitarian things,’ he says, referencing a melange of smoking pipes, wooden hair combs and Zulu headrests, all displayed with careful skill. A glance at the space conveys to you that Mark’s Bambara and Hehe tribes are the counterpart to our @home and Weylandts stores, his Cameroon our Sandton.
‘Strange things interest me,’ he explains, ‘I’m not always looking for the most precious objects,’ like his divination bowl, originally used for throwing bones at ceremonies and now home to odds and ends. He recalls the origin of every piece, but some – such as his Senufo daybed from the Ivory Coast, loaded into a container, hijacked by rebels at sea and negotiated back – have tales worthy of the camp fire. The handsome daybed now divides his open plan bedroom and bathroom.
When he’s not travelling he spends his weekends ‘picking’ at his favourite markets from Meyerton to Bloemfontein. ‘I’m more a collector than a dealer,’ he confesses, admitting to a warehouse tucked away with another 8000 odd pieces awaiting unveiling. amatuli.co.za
Originally published in HL May 2015
Styling Heather Boting