Collective Africa – collecting memories of safari adventures through art and style
Pictured above: Giraffe & Elephant Jug by Ardmore Ceramics
Nicola Greig, the founder of Collective Africa – a revolutionary African concept store – speaks exclusively to The Luxury Channel about her experiences growing up on safari in Africa, and how her childhood has since inspired her, in every facet of life….
Tell us about the early days of your childhood on safari?
I was that little girl with knotty blonde hair, no shoes and grazed knees running around a safari campsite, poking sticks into termite mounds waiting for whatever poor, furious creature would emerge. I had an affinity and curiosity with nature, in all its forms.
My father was an adventurer – and still is, at the age of 78. He would regularly visit Zimbabwe and spend many days walking in the bush, observing very aggressive elephant recovering from the trauma of landmines. He would come home with stories of sleeping under the stars by a campfire and of all the creatures visiting him in the night. I found this thrilling, rather than terrifying, and could not wait to be of an age to experience it myself. Which I duly did. Memories bounce from discovering a lion having a nap in my outside shower, to elephant pulling out the tap to my bathroom, to hyena casually walking up and taking their share of our dinner on the campfire. Uncontained, wild, free.
It was very fortuitous that I met a man with a small aeroplane who adored Africa possibly more than I did. In his youth, his imaginary game was a toy aeroplane landing on a dusty runway, and a Land Rover waiting for him for his next adventure. I was thrilled with this “”great discovery” and off we went on endless safaris.
When you spend time in Africa, and I don’t mean 5-star luxury, but when you remove yourself from all the comforts, Africa washes over your soul and there is an awakening, to yourself, and the wonders of nature.
From a child’s perspective, what were the colours of Africa like then?
Great question. Many think that Africa’s colours are muted for camouflage. This is not the case at all. If you look carefully behind the ears of a lion, there is a black spot. This is so that the pride can follow one another through the bush.
South Africa has 850 different bird species. My son has seen over 500 different species. When you lift binoculars to your eyes and take a moment to truly look at a bird, you cannot believe the combination of colours that nature has thrown together. Turquoise with pink. Orange with lime.
Being on safari was only ever colourful for me. Just the colour of grass, when the morning sun strikes its shards, can leave you breathless. Then there is the African sunset after a dusty day. It must be experienced, as words will fail. Time quite simply stands still.
Tell us about your inspiration for Collective Africa and what can we see in your collections?
Collective Africa is an extension of my soul. It is my DNA. It is, like me, creative and imaginative. It is a collection of anything that I am drawn to, that I resonate with – a scent that makes my heart flutter, a book that pulls me into a dream, a ceramic that tells a beautiful story, sunglasses that make me think of an Africa safari. The collection is vast and fascinating. It is like immersing yourself into an African dreamland.
We currently have two locations – one in Flamingo Room by Tashas at Jumeirah Al Naseem in Dubai Collective and the second in Bungalo34, a beach restaurant on Pearl Jumeira. In the next few months, we will be opening in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. One day I would love to have a Collective Africa location in the UK… a future dream that I know will come true.
What is unique about your collections?
Ardmore Ceramics immediately springs to mind. I am in awe of the pure, authentic, iconic African imagery portrayed in every unique piece. The artists have totally captured Africa in its purest form. I often catch myself starting endlessly at a piece, reminiscing about my childhood adventures. They awaken a dream, a sense of the earth, nature and its beauty.
Another one that springs to mind is Donald Greig’s sculptures. He captures Africa’s beautiful animals in bronze, and he just happens to be my talented brother-in-law. Imagine a hippopotamus floating its head just above the water, a dung beetle rolling its ball along to be buried for either food or laying eggs, or a meerkat family on high alert with their little paws resting on their bellies.
Tell us about some of your favourite pieces that you have collected over the years?
I am very privileged to own one of the few first pieces made under acacia trees in Zululand by Ardmore Ceramics’ very first artist, Bonnie Ntshalinthshali. She unfortunately died from Aids, but her legacy remains to this day.
I have a Panama hat that was hand painted by a South African artist, Victoria Verbaan, with a very naughty vervet monkey, dressed in a colourful waistcoat causing havoc.
For my wedding, my brother-in-law made us a very beautiful bronze of a Green Backed Heron on a stick pointing its beak with intense concentration at a fish in the water. It is now 30 years old.
What are your favourite places in Africa?
I have moved slightly away from seeking out the “Big 5” to discovering places that are unique. Jack’s Camp in Botswana is one of them. It is one of the few places on earth where you experience complete silence. No birds, no bees, no wind, no humans. Just total and utter deafening silence.
I love Victoria Falls. I love to swim right to the edge of the falls and stick my head over the edge with someone holding my feet. Terrifying but incredible.
I also love the Zambezi – the great, great Zambezi River. I love to skim along the glassy water in a boat at dusk and dawn watching elephant swimming across the gently flowing river, with only their little snouts just above the water as evidence of their existence. Then catching the mighty Tiger Fish. What an incredible experience. Catch and release. They are inedible and the greatest fighters.
What is your own favourite luxury?
My greatest luxury is sipping on a gin and tonic on safari with family and friends, at a waterhole at sunset, binoculars at hand, guineafowl running around recklessly. Quite simply hard to beat.