Snapped is a companion piece to the hugely successful, "I turned away and she was gone"
Baraka Gift and Decor Shop in Cape Town
A treasure trove of quirky collectibles certain to captivate both visitors and locals
There’s no shortage of gift and decor shops in Cape Town; what’s lacking, though, is gift and decor shops with substance and heart. Baraka, which is situated in the cobbled De Waterkant district, is one of these rare jewels.
The tiny, overflowing store renounces all that’s tacky, generic and commercial, and so it’s a veritable blessing (the meaning of the Swahili and Arabic word ‘baraka’) not only for discerning tourists eager to take quality crafts home but also astute locals on the hunt for an out-of-the-ordinary present or a conversation-starting homeware piece. This is because the instantly likeable owners, Gavin Terblanche and Belteshazzar Raubenheimer, are deeply passionate about every item in the shop, from the tiniest tablecloth weight to the most striking scatter cushion or vintage tea set, and this sort of infectious excitement almost guarantees that customers will feel equally enthusiastic about the eclectic selection of odds and ends.
The couple first opened the doors to the vibrant Aladdin’s Cave on 7 July 2007 (proof that seven is a lucky number), and ever since they’ve been carefully handpicking unique products to add to their always-evolving family of trinkets, forever keeping an eye out for quirky little arts and crafts as though sourcing riches to adorn their own home.
“For us, it’s a lifestyle, not a job, so wherever we go, we’re constantly on the lookout for new, unusual things,” explains Gavin, who took inspiration for the store from the many bustling souks he encountered while living in the Middle East. “It’s like we’re always on a treasure hunt.”
Because the two founders put emphasis on quality, novelty and social responsibility, the ‘treasures’ they stock from floor to ceiling in the cosy outlet are typically handmade, hand-carved, hand-painted and hand-stitched by small-scale local ventures and independent craftsmen, designers and artists. There are multihued wire Zulu baskets that still smell of smoke because their creators wove them around hut fires; ceramic bowls that bear careful, steady brushstrokes; bracelets with beads that have been painstakingly strung together; and a rainbow of other items made with love and devotion.
And the great benefit of this for buyers is that many of the Baraka products are consequently once-off creative wonders or limited edition gems that can’t easily be found elsewhere. So, foreigners can walk away with a memoir of their time in South Africa that’s authentic and nothing like the myriad of run-of-the-mill, reproduced curios out there, and locals can find gifts for friends and family that are fresh, a little offbeat and certain to be adored.
Speaking of offbeat, the boutique is bliss for anyone with a slightly irreverent sense of humour too. Images of Jesus perch next to carvings of Buddha; gold sculptures of Ganesha frame an old Jewish menorah, and amongst the contemporary pottery and eccentric artworks sit a sleek earthenware bong, a collection of penis-shaped salt and pepper shakers and a few other tongue-in-cheek knickknacks designed to make you smile.
It’s a patchwork of present options reflective of the owners’ playful personalities and desire to have some good old-fashioned fun. They’re gatekeepers of happy vibes – “we’re all about good energy,” says Belteshazzar – and so Baraka is a pleasant place to be, even if you’re just chatting to the founders and simply browsing, not buying. Though, we challenge anyone to walk into this lively space and not depart with something special.
10 POPULAR GIFT AND DECOR IDEAS THAT MAKE BARAKA BLISS FOR BUYERS
1. Posters, prints and cards: The shop is home to a horde of quirky framed and unframed posters adorned with laugh-out-loud memes and cartoon characters as well as an assortment of realistic prints of Cape Town landscapes and playful greeting cards – it’s probably the only place you’ll find one that reads “go f*** yourself”.
2. A sea of scarves: Baraka has one of the largest varieties of scarves and shawls in Cape Town, including 100% cotton East African kikoys and funky, lightweight options from India. So, you’re bound to find a design or colour combination that appeals to your taste or that of a gift recipient.
3. Vintage homeware: From an ancient Japanese tea set and retro Parmesan grater to second-hand silver toast racks and a condiment holder from the 1950s, there’s a wide selection of timeless vintage items that are still aesthetically striking and, more importantly, functional.
4. Genuine Panama hats: Always a winner of a gift for men or women, the fashionable Panama hats available at Baraka are hand-woven in Ecuador and are very fairly priced for originals.
5. Leather-bound journals: Bound in genuine leather, Baraka’s journals and diaries are reminiscent of the notebooks of great global explorers. They are crafted by a local man who grew tired of the corporate rat race and decided to start working with his hands instead.
6. Recycled and upcycled decor: Think sugar spoons and salad servers made from sea shells and driftwood; jewellery moulded from used bicycle tire tubes; colourful baskets woven from old telephone wire; steampunk lamps created from worn car engines or photographic tripod stands and more.
7. Retro comic books: If you or someone you know is a collector of vintage comics from the 70s, 80s and 90s, Baraka is the place to pick them up.
8. Quirky, contemporary ceramics: Beautiful bowls, cups and objets d’art are the order of the day at Baraka. The shop usually stocks both eccentric earthenware items, like the aforementioned penis shakers and a limited edition series of hand-painted African male busts, and classic, contemporary pieces, such as porcelain platters and plates by Cape Town-based ceramist Cath Price.
9. Non-curio African collectibles: The generic tourist-y souvenirs on sale at Greenmarket Square have their place, but at Baraka, foreigners will find something distinctly South African that’s also fresh and one-of-a-kind. Visitors can pick up anything from Africa-shaped key rings from local metal designer TinTown to unique indigenous instruments or framed traditional Zulu wedding gear (the selection changes all the time).
10. Artworks: Gavin and Belteshazzar are always sourcing original works from South African artists, many of which reflect their off-the-wall taste (skulls are a dominant theme). What’s more, Tretchikoff’s famous prints are also available on scatter cushions, purses and coasters.
Tip: Baraka also sells some of its products online via a virtual store (http://www.barakashop.co.za), so even those who aren’t based in Cape Town can browse the shop. Though, as there’s much more on offer in the brick-and-mortar outlet, it’s advisable to make the trip there if you’re in town.
The Bill: Value for money is key at Baraka – the owners aren’t out to exploit tourists and they want locals to be able to shop there too. There are therefore options for every budget, with prices ranging from as little as R10 to as much as R45,000.
Read more about the Cape Quarter Piazza, the trendy lifestyle centre that’s home to the Baraka gift shop.
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