Meet Mark Valentine, the hunter-gather behind Amatuli's amazing artefacts

Joburg's pre-eminent dealer of unique African and Asian artefacts tells us what he covets and which artists and designers he has his eye on

29 September 2019 - 00:00 By Mila Crewe-Brown
Mark Valentine and his daughter Emily travelling in Africa.
Mark Valentine and his daughter Emily travelling in Africa.
Image: Emily Valentine

Everyone knows, if it's African or Asian artefacts you're after, then Mark Valentine's Amatuli in Kramerville, Joburg, is where you head.

Sought after by lodges, homeowners and celebrities for their inimitability and provenance, Mark's collection of furniture, homeware and textiles are in a league of their own.

Just like the pieces he sources, Mark's own style is casual, original and relaxed. He tells us more what he covets and which artists and designers he has his eye on:

Amatuli is all about the hunt and discovery for found objects with rich patina and history, along with fine craft from around the world.

Authentic design means inspiration drawn from a wild place, an original thought, maybe a better description which translates into a new design.

Some of the things that make my home unique are a beautiful wooden Senufo bed in my bathroom, a collection of simple African neck rests and a '70s pinball machine.

A Senufo bed from Amatuli.
A Senufo bed from Amatuli.
Image: Emily Valentine

I can't stop collecting ... almost everything I see, from old cars and pinball machines to simple, tribal utilitarian objects.

What I love about African craft is the way it still excites me after 35 years of being in its presence; the simplicity of a nomad's objects and the intricacies of West African traditions.

My best local destinations for unique homeware are Weylandts and The Storer at 44 Stanley.

Products from The Storer at 44 Stanley.
Products from The Storer at 44 Stanley.
Image: Emily Valentine

My current most-coveted item at Amatuli is a collection of Dutch-inspired, field-collected, crafted furniture from Cameroon.

The last interior that Amatuli's furniture graced was a project in Victoria Falls we did called Zambezi House, situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, where the object was to try and melt containers into the tree-lined river bank.

People who I think have incredible style are Fox Brown, the iconic Stephen Falcke and Caline, my Cape Town friend.

The creatives I'd most love to have a drink with are Emily and Katy, my entrepreneurial daughters. Kate, designing jewellery for her collection and Emily, with her uncanny ability to capture amazing images.

The last place I travelled to was Ethiopia with my daughter Emily. We spent a month photographing the rock-hewn Churches of Lalibela and the wonderful people of the Omo Valley.

My top holiday destination is Peponi Hotel on Lamu's Shela Beach.

My best hotel is Emily Moon River Lodge, not only because we built it.

The last great building I experienced was the Victoria Falls Hotel, for its grandness and history and its views of the "Smoke That Thunders", the gorges and railway bridge over the falls.

On my travels, I could never do without my tatty green canvas man-bag.

Gola 6 from David Ballam’s 'Leaving Lubango' collection.
Gola 6 from David Ballam’s 'Leaving Lubango' collection.
Image: David Ballam

The last exhibition I enjoyed was David Ballam's Leaving Lubango.

My favourite artist right now is a Zimbabwean sculptor by the name of Reason Chiwara, who brings life to raw stones.

The local designer I have my eye on right now is Donald Nxumalo, for his youth, energy and eye for detail.

I'm reading, sorry to say, a Wilbur Smith from the '80s called Eagle in the Sky.

The best coffee-table book I own is Peter Beard's The End of the Game - it's on the top of a big pile.

My most-coveted wardrobe item is a butchered pair of many-times-repaired Palladium boots.

What I most love about my job is waking up in the morning on the rooftop of my shop and wondering what the day will bring.