Just Africa

You don't have to go on a real safari for a taste of Africa. After excursions to Asoka Bali in Wilton Manors and Spirit of Vietnam in Fort Lauderdale, Artbeat recommends a shopping safari at Just Africa, near the eastern end of the East Las Olas Boulevard business district. Cash and credit cards are the preferred equipment for a safari at this combination store/gallery, which opened in December 2001. The owner is Don Fellowes Wilson, a South African whose inspiration for this shop was his Fellowes Interiors back in Cape Town, and the inventory consists exclusively of items from his native continent. The big game here are beautifully carved versions of such fauna as elephants, giraffes, and hippopotamuses in various sizes. Most are made of kiaat, a golden-brown hardwood that's the African equivalent of teak, although the store's miniature zoo also includes some mahogany hippos. Just Africa specializes in furniture -- sofas, chairs, and ottomans covered in leather made from ostriches and the large African antelopes called kudu. The velvety pelts of Burchell's zebras are also used for some pieces, and I saw a couple of large wine racks made of Rhodesian mahogany, one of which was fashioned from railway ties. The shop also offers carved heads and masks, throw pillows, kiaat boxes and chests, hand-blown glass, lamps, and whimsical ceramic figurines by Cape Town artist Tania Babb. And there's an array of pieces made from Kenyan kisi, a soapstone carved and painted to create bowls, platters, plates, boxes, animal figurines, and tiny "snake boxes" that slide open to reveal a surprise. But the most intriguing items are such exotica as Tanzanian "chief sticks," carved wood human figurines so thin and elongated that they could be African cousins of some of Giacometti's metal sculptures; carved ceremonial drums from Cameroon; silver bracelets with elephant hair woven around them; and especially large ostrich eggshells, which are so thick and durable that they can be fashioned into lampshades or decorated and glazed to form freestanding art objects as gorgeous as they are useless. Just Africa is at 1209 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-767-9220. -- Michael Mills

 
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