Make the right choice when purchasing natural products
Curios are defined as ‘rare, unusual, or intriguing objects’ that tourists purchase to remind them of their travels. These knick-knacks can vary from cultural attire or a branded peak cap from a popular city to animal products. Curios can be found on the side of the road, in markets, shopping centres, and lodges. Not all curios are ethical, and some have serious consequences for the environment. It’s important to do your research, and to be cautious when purchasing animal products and wooden trinkets.
Amanda McCarthy from Groundcover Leather Company has been working with leather for over 30 years and exports hand-made products to clients worldwide. “All authentic and properly treated leather goods feature the outline of a sheepskin, with the printed words Genuine Leather,” she explains. “When we sell products that are going overseas, we provide a letter from the tannery, stating that the leather has been properly tanned.”
The Groundcover baobab logo is a promise of quality genuine leather goods produced according to the brand’s ‘thinking globally and acting locally’ ethos. The one-pocket rucksack is the perfect practical companion for any adventure. R1 475, from www.groundcover.co.za
Fur: Nguni skin hides
The Nguni cow is an icon of Zululand, bred by King Shaka’s communities for their magnificent symmetrical hides. From R3 000 at www.groundcover.co.za
Indigenous Nguni cattle, ostrich and crocodile are farmed for their hides, but when purchasing impala, springbok or zebra skins buyers should be more cautious. They are often the by-product of sustainable culling programmes or hunting; always check the label, and ask.
Feather: Sustainably sourced ostrich feathers
Upmarket African artefacts shop Art Africa does not stock animal skins, elephant hair or porcupine quills. It is difficult to prove a wild animal was not killed to create the trinket made from its body part.
“With regards to wood we try and stock items either made from alien trees or old fallen trees that have been collected in the bush,” explains Linda Malcom, owner of Art Africa. “Our most popular curio item is beadwork – most of our beads are made from glass.”
Wooden products like carvings are another grey area, as they can have dire consequences for deforestation and habitat decline, especially when it comes to hardwoods. “Unfortunately, in some areas hardwoods are not protected. They are cleared for subsistence farming, housing and curio carvings. In cases like the Lebombo wattle (Newtonia hildebrandtii), we will not see them replaced in our lifetime as they take so long to grow,” explains Clinton Wright, founder of the Wild Tomorrow Fund.
Lumber: aThought, long-lasting quality wooden products
The Siri Brass board is the ideal cheese platter when entertaining. Made to last a lifetime, the Siri Brass Board is an asset to any kitchen. R2 000 from www.athought.co.za
All aThought products are hand-made from high-quality oak and designed for functionality, endurance, and simplicity – the complete antithesis of fast fashion. Price depends on the product. This caddy costs R2 700, from www.athought.co.za
Products that do not have an impact on the local environment and wildlife include traditional clothing, beadwork, paintings and sustainably produced animal products. The basic rules of economy, supply and demand, apply to curios – if you purchase an illegally harvested hardwood salad bowl you’re enabling indigenous forests to be cut down.
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