ome people collect items such as pop-art paintings and first-edition novels, others seek novelties and curiosities such as clothes pegs. We can all understand the motivation behind investing in a Warhol or a Basquiat (did I just hear ka-ching, ka-ching?), but the plastic pinchers that keep your laundry from blowing away? The phrase that’s more likely to come to mind there is ‘kray kray’. But as Dr Randy O. Frost, a professor of psychology at Smith College in the US, wrote in a New York Times article, entitled ‘When Collecting Becomes Hoarding’, ‘a passion for collecting is a healthy outlet and an activity that keeps people connected to the world around them’. ★ TO HAVE AND TO HOLD Cape Town-based Mike Bruton designs science centres and museums by day, but nurtures an interest in simple technologies and how they have evolved over time and in different cultures. He has a collection of over 600 different clothes pegs from around the world – made from plastic, wood, wire, metal, stone, bone, seed pods, and so on, and in all sorts of colours. He finds it fascinating that ‘clothes pegs come in many different designs in order to achieve the same main objective – to keep clothes on the line. New ways of making clothes pegs are being developed continuously as new materials become available and new crimping mechanisms are devised. They are classic examples of human innovation and have been in use by indigenous people for thousands of years, such as those made from dried plant seeds.’ His largest clothes peg is 30cm and the smallest is 3mm. ‘The oldest is a medieval
peg made by the Vikings in Sweden and the second oldest is a 19th-century cloven wooden peg from rural England. I also have dried-seed pegs used by the Khoisan in northern Botswana and by the Aborigines in Australia, and bone pegs from Iceland.’ When he travels abroad, he takes a bag of new pegs with him and then wanders around the suburbs of foreign cities swopping new pegs for old, local ones. ‘Mediterranean countries are good hunting grounds as the locals hang up their washing over the street,’ he explains. ‘Most people are fascinated by the hobby and some have even sent me pegs from abroad, but the most prized one of all is probably a peg hewn from a solid piece of marble.’ ★ TRASH OR TREASURE Laurence Hamburger, a commercial film director based in Joburg, admits that although he’s probably obsessive by nature, it’s the innate fear of things being forgotten or forsaken by a world that seems happy to dispose of everything that drives him to collect news posters. Yep, those sometimes hilarious, other times heartbreaking bulletin boards tied to street poles you might encounter more than once at a robot or stop street, depending on the traffic situation. A collection was published a few years ago called Frozen Chicken Train Wreck. It sold out last year and will be reissued in time for the sequel, More Textbook Lies, in October this year. It will contain new posters he has collected since the first book, as well as contributions from other collectors. He says, ‘I like objects that carry a narrative…’ As a History student, he became aware of the relevance of pop-culture artefacts – comics, toys and posters – as historical indicators of a period in time. He felt the need to salvage the South African news headline posters that were being discarded every day and started collecting them seven years ago with a book or some other kind of curatorial medium in mind.
He chooses ones that carry a layered meaning, are witty – using word play particular to South Africa – or represent the times we’re living in quite pertinently, and in so doing preserve something that may come to have historical significance in the future. Hamburger once drove around Joburg in the middle of winter for two hours looking for a specific poster. He couldn’t remember where he’d seen it but had to find it somehow, managing to both break up and make up with his girlfriend during the journey. ★ THE THRILL OF THE CHASE Dusan Milanovic has turned collecting into a day job. He’s an autograph dealer in Gauteng who locates, sources, and authenticates autographs, and he’s been at it since the 80s. For him, it’s about nostalgia, what it means to own something few others would, and the quest of finding that elusive item. Once he drove to Standerton from Joburg and back on the same day (a four-hour trip), just to view a presidential autograph collection. Joburg-based TV and media personality Maps Maponyane will travel much further to feed his obsession for retro watches. He has a more than 10-strong Casio watch collection consisting of retro classic pieces still in working order. He says, ‘I have an old-school analogue piece – the strap is brown crocodile leather, it has a gold frame and a white dial. I travelled to Turkey to track it down.’ He enjoys the oldschool classic feel they give as accessories and admits that he lacks a bit of self-control when it comes to purchasing fashion items. When he’s not collecting watches, he loves hats, old hook umbrellas and limited-edition All Stars sneakers. ‘I suppose all of my collections are sartorial – things I can wear and use on a regular basis. I enjoy fashion a lot.’ Capetonian sneakerhead Hayden Manuel also has no problem catching a long-haul flight to get his hands on a new acquisition. He works as a social media and content strategist twenty-one