Saturday is Essenwood day in Durban. Some people participate every week and others only a few times a year but all will agree that if you are visiting the city over a weekend the Essenwood Fleamarket is worth a pop-in.
The market is situated in the Essenwood park and has become a very slick operation over the years. The area which hosts the market is paved and stall holders are provided with a shaded table from which to sell their wares. There is also a credit-card facility available that can be utilized by all traders even if their turnover is not large enough to qualify for their own machine. The traders are the real attraction of the market and I have found many unusual and delightful items over the years. There are the stalwart stalls which are a regular draw-card to the market. There is a stall which sells some of the best biltong in KZN. You will find something to suit your tastebuds in the barrels labeled “wet and fatty,” “wet,” “dry,” “garlic,” “very peri.” The convenience of being able to sample before you buy also keeps you coming back again and again to buy the one you didn’t last time but whose taste has taken on mythical proportions since then. The avo open sarmies are an institution at Essenwood and the bribe many women use to get their significant other to the market. Be ware of the red sauce, however… There is also a delightful lady who sells delicious fudge in every flavour. Don’t leave it ‘til 2 o’clock to get to the market for fudge, though, as she sells out fast.
There are a myriad of other stalls besides the food. One of my favourites is Amelia Smith’s Whimsy. Amelia is a talented artist with a magical imagination and her drawings in black ink and pencil are filled with the day dreams and flights of imagination we all ad as children. One of her series is called “Girl wanting wings” and depicts a little girl’s efforts to fly amongst other childlike adventures. In one drawing she is “The paper boat captain” and in another she shares her comfortable reading chair with a sloth who is just as engrossed as she in a book. Amelia’s drawings are capturing the imagination and nostalgia of Durbanites young and old but there are only fifteen of each drawing so don’t allow yourself to procrastinate too long over your choice.
Another unique stall belongs to Nicole Couto-Leite. She collects old South African postcards and photographs and makes the prints into calendars, mouse pads, framed pictures and other clever items. You can also buy prints ranging from postcard-size to A3. It is fascinating to flip through her files and glimpse what our familiar surrounds were like 20, 40, 80 and 100 years ago. Her collection covers all South Africa’s major cites and prints can be ordered online from her website: www.sapostcardprints.com. Nicole is friendly, helpful and interesting and she knows her collection inside out. She is willing to help source any prints you may desire and is currently trying to find a picture of Durban Country Club for me. I have no doubt I will have it in time to include it in my wedding album.
The list of interesting, quirky and fun stalls at Essenwood is extensive. Well-known Durban bookshop, Bookbase, sells an excellent selection of second-hand books; Leslie Mullin is there with her very popular helicolias and there is a frame for any spot or picture you can create. Mark Koetjen’s laser-created puzzles, decorations and invitations will open your mind to what can be created. Many young designers sell their first designs at Essenwood and some of my favourite items of clothing and jewellery have been bought here over the years. Recently I have loved the compliments I receive about my zip earrings and button necklaces and I have enjoyed wearing the comfortable and modern designs by Buka Mina.
Essenwood is a wonderful place to while away a sunny Saturday morning whether you are searching for a gift (even if it’s for yourself) or just looking. Do go and experience it soon.