Local Is Lekker – Collecting South African Antiques

South Africa, with its English, Dutch, French and German heritage, has a wealth of antiques and collectables that have been handed down from generation to generation and have become highly sought after by collectors. – From the local craftsmen who created local furniture that could be easily transported during the ‘great trek’, – To the French Huguenots and German settlers who brought their own craftsmanship. – From the early Dutch settlers who brought down furniture from their native Holland, – To the many commemorative items commissioned by the English Queen such as Royal Doulton’s Loving Cup or Boer War memorabilia to commemorate colonial events …. South African antiques offer a rich tapestry of collecting intrigue.


According to Christiaan Scholtz of Die Ossewa in Melville ‘there is defi nitely a move towards preserving our heritage, and early Afrikaner antiques have become highly collectable and are not easy to fi nd.” In some of the more rural areas of South Africa, especially those with a strong Afrikaans heritage, you can often still pick up exquisite pieces such as yellowwood and stinkwood furniture, an unusual bathroom cupboard or a miniature of a Cape Armoire. Avid collectors are scouring the country for Early Afrikaner and Pioneer furniture, the more ‘modern’ Cape and Transvaal furniture of the thirties and forties and even imbuia furniture which is fast reaching its 100-year mark and becoming the ‘new’ old collectable.

Pieces with a provenance, like a Koffee Confoer set, made up of a coffee pot with a filter bag and coal burner, each individually inscribed with the maker’s name F J Staal, dated 2nd February 1921 was probably given as a wedding gift. Getting your hands on a dop beker, which was traditionally given with wine to slaves working in the vineyards in lieu of payment, also has immense historical value. To complement Afrikaner furniture look out for Afrikaner accessories such as copper pots, tools and old kists.


Bringing a totally unique perspective and a strong link to South Africa is Ricus Dullaert, the renowned Dutch dealer who has been showcasing some of the best antiques at the NAADA Faire for the past couple of years. He has, over the years showcased some incredible antiques including.

– A rare Woltemade Clock by Douwe de Vries made shortly after 1775 in Amsterdam. This long case clock, oak veneered with Burr walnut and inlaid with rosewood depicts the heroic deed by Wolraad Woltemade who rescued 14 sailors from the wrecked VOC de Jonge Thomas in Table Bay on the 1st June 1773. Beautifully preserved and restored, this one-of-a kind clock was sold for an undisclosed amount by Ricus Dullaert, of Kunsthandel H.W.C Dullaert, a well-known antiques dealer from Amsterdam who is a regular exhibitor at the National Antiques Faire and who has made it his mission to source antique items that have a strong Dutch/ South African provenance.

– A 17th century Dutch oak ‘kussenkast’ veneered with ebony and kingwood of the period of Jan van Riebeeck circa 1660. High 218 cm, Wide 175 cm, Deep 68 cm, on ball feet with four doors with so called ‘kussen’ decoration and a drawer with three heads of lions.

– “Compagnie Kists” – massive chests that were produced in Batavia (Dutch East Indies) to store and transport porcelain from the East. These kists, with their massive brass handles and mounts can be seen in important collections such as those at the Castle in Cape Town and at Groot Constantia.


For people who are interested in the links between the Cape colony and the Dutch motherland, Ricus Dullaert has two rare Bibles that are proof of the close relationship between our two countries.

– The first is a book with the psalms and songs for the Dutch Reformed Church printed in 1834 in Haarlem, the Netherlands. This book, bound in a handsome green Moroccan leather neo gothic binding, is embellished with gold clasps by the Cape goldsmith Peter Clarke Daniel. The book was given to Susana Maria Blanckenberg who later married the mayor of Cape Town, Kotze van Leeuwenhof. The book was given to her by her father J.G. Blankenberg on the 1st July 1835. The gold clasps are engraved with a dedication from Mr. Blankenberg to his daughter.

– The second Cape Dutch Bible in the Dullaert collection is a Statenbijbel printed in 1864 by Swaan in Arnhem, The Netherlands. This Bible is embellished with heavy silver clasps by the famous Cape silversmith Johannes Marinus Lotter who was active in Cape Town in the 19th century.


Anglo-Boer War memorabilia is also attracting great interest from collectors keen to preserve that part of our country’s heritage. Depending on whether you are partial to the Boers or support the English colonists, there is a wealth of memorabilia available which avid collectors are snapping up.

From the Boer perspective the Anglo- Boer War (1899 -1902) saw as many as 26 000 soldiers taken prisoners and sent to POW camps both in the country and later abroad to St Helena, Bermuda, Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and India. To combat boredom, many prisoners of war started making hand crafts which, in some cases, turned into a way to make extra money. Walking sticks, boxes, pens, clips, serviette rings and paper knives were common items made but the more rarer pieces involved great craftsmanship in the way of carvings, be they of boxes or walking sticks with a representation of a Boer War hero carved into it. Coming across a collection of prisoner of war memorabilia, made by craftsmen, of a walking stick, officer’s baton, cufflink holder, carved tobacco jar and wooden pipe all with the carved head of Paul Kruger, is quite a unique find.

From the English perspective, collectors look to collect memorabilia which depicted the English military leaders such as Buller, Baden-Powell, Roberts, Kitchener, French, White or MacDonald – either in porcelain figures or depicted on tea-ware by ceramic houses such as Staffordshire and Royal Doulton. Even rarer are the tins of chocolate given by Queen Victoria to the troops serving in South Africa – finding one complete with original chocolates is a real find! Picture postcards and cigarette cards are other popular War collectables whilst prints and memoirs on the war – often produced as supplements to magazines such as Vanity Fair and The Sphere – are also highly collectable. Maps, posters, ration tickets, letters, photographs and autographs are also highly collectable as are military artefacts from that period.