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The Collector’s Interior

Time capsule: how our spaces help us slow down Back
Time capsule: how our spaces help us slow down
26 October, 2017

Taking a pause in this beautifully curated patio area – an ideal outdoor summer space – we ask the question: can our environment speak of treasuring time and honouring the moment? Looking around, and looking within, it becomes obvious that it can. And it does so because each object in this space resonates uniquely with our soul, dictating how we relate to the ever-ticking clock in some unconscious way.


Perhaps it’s not something we actively notice, but it’s possible that a room or an environment can ‘hurry’ us and leave us feeling anxious, on edge or rushed. And yet other spaces immediately feel like a haven – a slow, safe space where time stands still and speedy activity holds no value, or appeal. Soothing colours are a well-known tonic for calming the soul, but that’s only the start.

Picture a fast-food restaurant: plastic chairs and tables (cloned in a factory by machines), cold, tiled floors, with perfect regularity. Natural textures are nowhere to be seen: only manmade materials in a bright, and strongly contrasted, colour palate – maybe white and red. Now enter a beautiful lounge area, or this serene outdoor space: filled with soft, hand-woven textiles, wooden furnishings, antiques and beautiful objects carved with great care, by hand. What is it about this space that feels like a balm for your hurried soul? That invites you to linger a while, to ‘tarry’, as a bygone era would express it.

Could it be that every object speaks of time itself – in a language understood only subconsciously? Take the voice of a cushion, covered with ewe cloth. The ewe weavers of southeastern Ghana and the western border area of Togo express their creativity in high quality cotton, strip-woven fabrics – meticulously crafted by hand, slowly but surely. And indigo cloth communicates, similarly, a time-intensive process: before synthetic dyes, the ability to transform white cotton into precious blue cloth was a highly prized skill passed from generation to generation. From the Tuareg nomads of the Sahara to the grassland kingdoms of Cameroon, indigo cloth signified wealth, abundance and fertility. Just one century ago, blue and white striped cloth was regular attire across a vast area from Senegal to Cameroon, and traditions of "shibori" type resist pattern dyeing flourished.

These textiles, then, speak not only of a pair of hands, that personal touch – they whisper of time. Of time spent honing a craft and of timeless traditions.

The same is true of so many African artefacts. Take for example a Dinka headrest – known as thoch and used as both a headrest and seat by old men and women of the nomadic Dinka people. These carved wooden headrests are used to protect elaborate coiffure. In the Dinka society and neighboring peoples, these objects are very personal, and are believed to house the soul of the owner. Or think of a beautiful wooden container with its lid – and decorative birds carefully carved to form a handle.

From a Malawi chair woven with natural fibres (grown by the earth, over time), to an antique dresser or vase: these are the objects that have stood the test of the decades and centuries. A wall covered in gently worn picture frames, filled with portraits of loved ones, young and old, over the years. An animal skull, which speaks of a life cycle, lived and completed. Flourishing plants that have gradually grown to their present stature, and flowers – finally bursting forth in bloom at the appointed time. As we look around this inviting space, a segue between indoors and out, we observe that these are the objects to which we turn to furnish our homes and spaces in a way that invites the soul to rest, to slow down, to take a stand against the busy-ness of life.  

Baltasar Gracian once said “All that really belongs to us is time; even he who has nothing else has that.” And this truth is at the heart of the Amatuli aesthetic. Time, after all, is what makes an artefact most precious and speaks to that unconscious desire in all of us: the desire to treasure every moment as life’s most precious gift.


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