Nontando aluminium functional art

Nontando aluminium functional art is skilfully handcrafted from lead free aluminium, which is tarnish and rust proof. Designs are finished internally in irresistible variations, from highly polished aluminium, eye catching black or red high gloss enamel, and now also in a classic antique silver and a truly beautiful and unique antique gold.

Nontando brings you an ethnic and signature collection





Nontando celebrates 10 years of direct importing of African Décor, Art and Gifts

Annual buying trips to Africa for the past 10 years have enabled Nontando to establish many relationships across the continent of Africa. However, even with the numerous challenges of direct importing from overseas, the benefits are clear to be seen and have been the cornerstone behind the business successes over the past decade.

“I would not do it any other way”, says Gary Stern, owner and founder of Nontando. Stern emphasizes that his strategy from inception was to continuously improve the supply chain management process coupled an effort to cut costs in the process.  Stern says, “Direct importing has its challenges but when you can seek out higher quality products at better prices and deal directly with the artists then the ripple effect is a big positive”. “A global recession together with a prolonged challenging economic environment has of course had an impact on discretionary spending, hence bringing quality products at affordable prices has been of paramount importance at Nontando. Stern continues, “Direct importing gives us a comparative advantage with lower priced goods which allows us to eliminate the need for middlemen thus bringing our products to the consumer at better prices”.

Stern explains how every region has its strengths and weaknesses, good quality and poor quality and being able to identify and maintain viable sources is critical with regard to importing. “We pride ourselves that our products are 100% authentic and hand selected”, says Stern. Nontando normally takes 3 weeks each year and goes shopping in Africa travelling across many regions and meeting with their sources. “We try and do as much pre planning as possible before our buying trips but almost 50% of our selected and imported products are acquired ad-hoc during our trips”, Stern continues,” Through our online presence we are working with a number of designers and decorators across the USA and many of them are seeking that unusual, unique product. Our trips enable us to seek these products out”.

For certain product lines, uniqueness is critical and it can be somewhat trial and error process.   “Experience through our buying trips has taught us so much about the varied regions and peoples of Africa and just like anywhere in the world, artists from different demographics tend to specialize in particular mediums and categories”, Stern says. He explains in Africa many of the traditional skills have been carried on for generations in some cultures.

Nontando is a huge believer and supporter of working with the local artist and suppliers, thus encouraging empowerment and entrepreneurship. “Government intervention has definitely improved over the years but there is still a lot of work to be done here”, Stern says. “Trade agreements in recent years have been encouraging promoting free trade and less government intervention”. Nontando wants to see the small, local artist given the same opportunities to reach the global markets”. Stern says, “This would create a win-win scenario as well as serve as a boost for local economies”.

African Art, Home Decor and Gifts from Nontando – Profile on Masks

of Art” if often an applicable description for the West African Masks you will find at Nontando. For the creator of our masks, they consider them as a ritual instrument or cult object for his particular culture.

Every mask you find here plays an integral role in the culture of that particular group of people. The masks have a traditional use; it has an origin and a fundamental significance. A new identity is created with the creation and wearing of an African mask. Its goal is to a reaction; hence many of the masks from Africa can be of an exaggerated expression.

African Masks are made to be used. Used primarily for a ritual, which may include rituals of myth, rituals for increase, agricultural festivities, funerals or burials, ancestor cults, initiations and royal and family ceremonies.

Masks can take on a number of forms and shapes. The most common are face masks, helmet masks, headdresses and crowns. For each respective form and shape, the size can vary.

Materials used can also vary though wood is most often used. Depending on the origin of the mask, you may find a combination of materials used which may include brass, copper, fibers, raffia, and cowry shells. These additional materials are often used to increase the efficiency and power of the mask.

Many of the carvers work initially under the guidance of a master carver and are often selected by the peoples of his tribe. Carvers are regarded as artisans that possess special gifts and talents. The most common tool used is an adze though carvers do also use a chisel, knifes and an axe. When the master carver dies, his best pupils often inherit his tools, which for some, was also a means of transferring the skills of the master to his pupils.

Masks can take on different characteristics including naturalistic features, human features, frightening expressions, abstract features, animal features and superstructures.

Tribal styles vary by country by tribe. Nontando attempts each year, on our annual buying trip to the African continent, to showcase a diverse selection of these styles, which primarily originate from the likes of Mali, Liberia, Cameroon, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Congo, and also Tanzania and Zambia.


African Art, Home Decor and Gifts from Nontando – Profile on Beadwork

Beads and beadwork have tremendous symbolic meaning across all regions of Africa. From the Zulu of South Africa were beads are used as a message of love, to the kingdom of Benin were the use and wearing of beads is strictly worn and controlled by royalty.

Colors and patterns of beadwork adornment come to signify wider issues, from place of origin, to marital status, to religious beliefs, to fashion, even to political allegiances.

Ndebele beadwork is associated with the female status and female creativity and often displays the life-cycle stage of the wearer. The Yoruba of Nigeria associate beads with the power of gods and kings. In Kenya, the Massai used beadwork as a means to identify social institutions in the form of body decoration.

African beads can comprise of brass, copper, gold, silver, iron, various gemstones, wood, seeds, shells and glass. Beads from Africa can date back to as old as the 15th century with the arrival of European traders, following the Portuguese exploration of the African coastline.

Beads are traded widely within Africa, with specialist bead dealers and bead markets still found. African people often create new uses ranging from a single strung bead, through simple and multiple strands to beaded regalia and furniture such as royal thrones. Bead workers also produced beaded robes, cushions, staffs, and other items intended to demonstrate royal wealth and power.

Beadwork most often appears in many color combinations and can be worn by children and adults of both sexes. For the Zulu tribe, it is most often first worn by young adults as the vast majority of Zulu beadwork items are primarily associated with courtship and relations between the sexes.  In general, the more variation of color would indicate the more specific, and therefore personal, the message it could convey to the recipient.

The Massai of Kenya has its origins in the familiar triad of basic colors, red, white and black. As other color of beads became more readily available in the twentieth century we found that different Kenyan groups such as Kikuyu, Kipsigis, Nandi and the Massai, were often distinguished by the prominent use of a particular color.

ImageImageImageThe interplay of similarity and difference of beadwork across Africa and its peoples reflects and responds to the fluidity of ethnic identities across the region.

African Art, Home Decor and Gifts from Nontando – Profile on Ceramics

African ceramics often serve as objects of both utility and beauty in domestic settings or carry symbolic import central to social identity, economic and political status, ritual practice, and belief. Their study reveals the skill and invention of their makers, who are, more often than not, women. It is often represented as a form of expressive culture, and significant gaps remain in our awareness and understanding of historic and contemporary ceramic traditions across Africa.

African ceramics started to gain more exposure and publicity in the 1970s and today you will find African pottery in museums and private collections across Europe and the United States.

In West Africa, much of the pottery is derived from their own cultural traditions. Much of the older pottery from this region has no recordings, thus it is often difficult to determine the age, origin and value of the item. If we wish to understand better the social and spiritual meanings of individual pots, then we need to know something of the women and men who made them and the social, economic, and spiritual contexts within which they were conceived, created, and used.

The process of ceramic production can differ tremendously across different regions of Africa, including the tools and equipment used as well as the range and variation in ceramic assemblage. Many potters across Africa build their pottery by hand and have an amazing passion for the medium of clay, and his/her self-conscious respect for both tradition and innovation.