Profile – Ivorian art queen carves out an empire

2010-05-22 14:58

The reigning Ivorian queen resident at her showroom in Bramley is a

force to be reckoned with in the business of objets d’art.

Specialising in high-end artefacts from Ivory Coast and other

countries across Africa, Reine Osso lives up to her name – Reine (which is

“queen” in French). Her parents knew what they were doing when they named her,

as the tenacious ­tigress has established a booming business in the

male-dominated world of art trading.

A mother of four, Reine was born into an art trading family. She

learned the trade at home before venturing out to Italy, the US and then South

Africa in 1994.

A keen nose for business brought her to South Africa at a time when

the market for objets d’art was still largely untapped. After a tip-off from a

fellow Senegalese trader in the US, Reine packed 600kg of stock and got onto a

plane.

For two months she knocked on doors and carted the wooden carvings

on public transport as she sold her wares on foot.

Eventually she happened upon her first client. So enamoured with

her stock was he, that he bought all of it at once – and Reine was well on her

way to establishing one of the largest showrooms of African art in Joburg.

“I love art. Yes, it is a business for me but I truly love it. I

travel to source my pieces. I also have a team of people working at home who are

very artistic. I love seeing the handcrafted piece being created. There is

nothing like it. It’s our heritage as Africans,” she says.

Excited about the impending World Cup, Reine has created a special

series of one of her best-selling products, the “colonial figures”, ­under a

commission from Fifa.

“The colonial figures are a popular item in my shop. These

colonials have a long history in my family. It was my uncle who first made them.

He was simply modelling his parents. Someone got hold of the carvings and took

them to Abidjan – now they are all over the world.”

Reine has teams at work creating colonial figures of all the

football teams playing in the World Cup. She is especially fond of the carvings

that represent the Ivorian ­national team – Les Elephants.

Reine’s footballing hero, leading striker and team leader Didier

Drogba, is already immortalised in wood. Figures of his teammates and other

leading football players from the ­African teams which have qualified for the

World Cup will follow.

The African queen has also extended her empire to include

properties in Sandton which she has transformed into guest houses. It goes

without saying that the décor is unmistakably African-inspired.

»African Queen Trading, 147 Corlett Drive,

Bramley, Johannesburg. Tel: 011-021-8138; or visit

www.africanqueenarts.com


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