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  • Jamie Thom

Cape Markets - to shop and explore

Many people ask us about markets in South Africa and of course there are many, which market is for you is a case of what you are looking for; art/craft, curios and African, food and wine with music are just some of the markets. Of the long-standing, traditional markets in Cape Town, there are two that are very well-known;

Greenmarket Square in the heart of Cape Town is where artists and traders meet from all corners of the African continent to sell their wide range of fabrics, sculpture, art and beadwork. Visitors to the square are sure to enjoy the vibrant atmosphere and pick up great bargains as souvenirs of their African adventure.

At various times in history, Greenmarket square flea market has been a slave market, a fruit and vegetable market and even a humble parking lot. Today this flea market in Cape Town is where a wide range of informal traders sell batiks, beadwork, sculptures and more.

Greenmarket Square shopping is always an adventure. Situated in the heart of Cape Town’s Central Business District, its ancient cobbles compliment the vibrant, cosmopolitan feel of the city.

Many of the vendors trade in a blend of cross-continental merchandise, combining the many traditions of Africa, from the Masai to the Xhosa, the Zulu to the Bade tribe from the West African country of Senegal. Other typical arts and crafts that you will find at the market, at reasonable prices, are glassware, jewellery, clothing, footwear, music CD's, sunglasses and paintings.

Along with the unique bargains you will pick up, Greenmarket Square shopping excursions are also an opportunity to meet with the friendly, vibrant, vendors, who represent the many faces of Cape Town. You will also be entertained by buskers, drummers, jugglers and mime artists, many of whom earn their living from this market.

As the market has grown in stature it has attracted many other businesses to the area, including intimate coffee shops, restaurants and hotels, convenient for stops for exhausted shoppers!

The square is also a short walk from the Company Gardens, Houses of Parliament, South African Museum and the Pan African market. It is also close to the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving building in South Africa and the Old Town House situated on the border of the square. This is one of the city’s most famous examples of early Cape Dutch architecture and houses a significant collection of art works by 16th to 18th century Dutch and Flemish Masters.

The Pan African Market in Cape Town’s historic Long Street has a reputation for showcasing the best in African art. The works on display represent a range of cultures, artistic styles and techniques. It offers an impressive display of African culture, craftsmanship and artistic talent.

The fair is located in a national monument on the historic Long Street and comprises more than 30 stores and stalls representing at least 14 countries in East, West and Southern Africa.

You will meet salesmen and women from Cameroon, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, Mozambique, Mali and of course, South Africa itself.

When this African flea market began in 1997, its founders aimed to show that African art is not the homogenous mass that it is sometimes mistaken for.

From humble beginnings on the first floor of the building, and with just five traders, the market has grown enormously, showing African entrepreneurship as well as artistic talent!

Today, the market boasts incredible variety and sets the standard in African art and craft markets on the continent.

Visitors can explore three floors laden with stunning objects, artwork and artefacts. You should feel free to ask the traders for information and stories from their countries of origin. This not only contextualises these art pieces, but also enhances your appreciation and knowledge of the cultures of Africa.

The African craft market is located in an accessible and friendly environment. It's a well-known meeting place for African migrants and visitors from all around Africa and the rest of the world.

Besides browsing around for gifts or souvenirs, the Long Street building is bustling with entrepreneurs offering services ranging from hair dressing and tailoring to holistic healing and indigenous catering.

The traders who operate the stalls at the Pan African Market are completely independent and the market is an important source of employment in this regard.

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