If you live in Joburg, you know that the most popular beaded animal of 2013 is the rainbow giraffe.

Big ears

Beaded rainbow giraffes.

Beaded giraffes are nothing new in South Africa, nor are beaded animals in rainbow colors. But this particular design — the giraffe with a super-long neck, loveable face, and bright, blocky horizontal stripes — appeared earlier this year and has taken the beaded animal world by storm. Every beaded animal artisan in town is churning out rainbow giraffes, and they’re selling like hotcakes. I can see why. It’s impossible to look at a rainbow giraffe and not smile.

Blue giraffe

See what I mean?

As far as I’m concerned there is no better last-minute Christmas gift than a rainbow giraffe, and you can find one pretty much anywhere in Joburg. But if you want the very best quality and selection of rainbow giraffes, there is only one place to go: the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Chester Road.

Guys and giraffes

The biggest herd of rainbow giraffes in town.

I’ve been admiring the beaded animals on this corner, across from the Goodman Gallery in Parkwood, for years. I’ve driven past at least 1000 times and have often remarked that these guys make the best animals I’ve seen. And since the rainbow giraffe craze began, the Jan Smuts corner guys have upped their game even more.

This afternoon, for the first time ever, I drove past this corner and then turned around and went back. I could not resist the sea of rainbow giraffes; to me, these giraffes scream South African Christmas.  My camera had to photograph them.

Little giraffe head

Little giraffe with big eyes.

Infinite giraffes

Soooo many giraffes.

My friend Michelle couldn’t resist the giraffes either. She bought two.

Michelle and giraffes

Michelle with one of her new giraffes.

Michelle and I chatted quite a bit with the Jan Smuts bead guys: Kennedy, Elias, Eddie, Peter, Panganai, and Lenon. They are all from Zimbabwe (like every bead artisan I’ve ever met) and have been making animals on that corner for about 10 years. They are lovely guys — I regret that it took me so long to stop and meet them.


The Jan Smuts rainbow giraffe gang. I love them.

The Jan Smuts giraffes start at around R100 ($10) for the smaller sizes. These prices are very competitive in the Joburg beaded animal market.

There. I’ve solved your last-minute Christmas-shopping problems. You’re welcome. Now get yourselves to the Jan Smuts rainbow-giraffe corner before it’s too late. You can park in the lot at the Garden Shop.

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