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In a world that favours mass production, it comes as a refreshing change to find handmade products that are unique and, more often than not, have a tale to tell.
Copper and brass fashion accessories, functional tableware and corporate gifts inspired by African myths and legends are hand-crafted by workers in a small factory in White River, South Africa. Copper Cove, the UAE registered agent for Coppercraft Africa, is bringing these to the UAE’s community markets and select retail outlets.
“Copper and brass have been used by Africans for self-adornment since 500BC, so wearing the jewellery will hopefully help people capture the spirit of this vast continent,” says Gerry Kouloumbaritsis, Owner of Copper Cove.
Many of the designs stem from traditional folklore of the Ndebele people who live in the hilly Mpumalanga province. Other pieces are inspired by nature, such as the tracks a lizard imprints in the sand. Other cultures across the continent have also provided inspiration, including charms used to ward off the evil eye and the legends depicted on the tribal flags of the Fante people who once communicated via illustrated proverbs.
“Art plays a prominent part in the Ndebele people’s everyday lives,” Kouloumbaritsis says. “We go out of our way to ensure our factory workers know they are an integral part of the operation so they too reflect the brand.”
In the factory, machines initially cut the copper (sourced in Zambia) and brass into manageable shapes and sizes, after which the employees hand-solder them into different products, some featuring several metals fused together to create the characteristic multihued pieces. These are then heat treated and burnished by hand to bring out the warm bronze, gold, brown and deep plum red colours within the metals.
It’s not just the earthy colours that are significant—Kouloumbaritsis points out the health benefits of copper. “Few people know that it is a key trace element for the body to function properly.”
A deficiency in the chemical element can lead to health problems including anaemia and low resistance to disease, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. And last year a study conducted by the University of Southampton in the UK revealed that by using antimicrobial copper surfaces alongside standard quarantine procedures, the spread of Ebola could be controlled as copper deactivates the virus.
Copper Cove’s jewellery and tableware designs are constantly changing. The latest range of tableware depicts the Burj Khalifa, designed to customise products for the local market. These will soon be available in the At The Top boutique on level 124 (for ticket holders) of the Burj Khalifa and an outlet on the lower ground level of The Dubai Mall.
Kouloumbaritsis, who is of Greek and Cypriot descent but born in Zimbabwe, discovered the magic of the metals while employed at Creative Copper, the Zimbabwean company that pioneered the concept. “I loved living there and working across the country experiencing different societies and environments,” he says.
However, political and economic instability eventually forced his family to leave and by 2003 he had established an agency for the same products in Cyprus. The retail and wholesale business did well until 2010, when the Cyprus banking crisis took its toll. Kouloumbaritsis moved to Dubai in August 2013, opening a small retail outlet in Dubai Silicon Oasis some time later.
Copper Cove displays its treasure chest in the community markets of Zabeel Park every Friday from 9am to 3pm, on Saturdays at Wafi City from 10am to 7pm and on alternate Saturdays from 1pm to 6pm at the Yas Marina Market, Abu Dhabi.
Source: Cheryl Robertson, Special to Property Weekly