House of treasures

Marietjie and Robbie Robinson live in Hartbeesfontein, South Africa; their home is packed with ‘priceless’ finds — from baking-powder tins to tea sets to family trousseaux. Together, they have worked on building a museum for posterity

By Text: Misi Overturf, Photographs: Candice Askham

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Published: Fri 22 Feb 2013, 1:13 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 8:39 PM

The town of Hartbeesfontein near Klerksdorp in the North West province is a library of stories, but the tale we’re telling is that of Marietjie and Robbie Robinson who made a home for themselves here on the platteland, in the shadow of a stately church tower.

Marietjie’s grandchildren call her the granny ‘who’s not poor on her walls’ — a classic example of ‘out of the mouths of babes…’ The old farmhouse is Marietjie’s dream come true: steps up onto the stoep lead to a front door that opens into a passageway which runs the full length of the house. 
And the reason she loves it so is that she’s finally found a home for all her collections.

The Robinsons decided to scale down their flower farm in Rustenburg seven years ago, and three months later they and their son, Fanie, moved into their dream home. Then their other son, Gawie, and his family left the Cape and moved in next door. The air is cleaner here than in the city, after all, and his daughter Daisy could grow up closer to nature.

Initially, the house was a little cramped for the couple but they created extra space with a series of small alterations, perfectly tailoring the house to their lifestyle and needs. And after that they could place their own stamp on it.

A cup here, a tin there

One of the alterations the Robinsons made was to enlarge the kitchen by equipping a new scullery on the back stoep, making room for the fun 
ensembles on the walls. The kitchen is sheer heaven for anyone with an eye for detail, as Marietjie’s collections can keep you entranced for hours. Tins, cups, jars of canned fruit, enamelware, and kitchen appliances are all displayed in a single colourful and charming collage. Little stays hidden behind cupboard doors and the exhibition changes continually. One display that immediately catches the eye is a small complete tea service in an open cupboard below the geyser.

But if you come by next week, you’ll see a different set — Marietjie has enough to stock a tearoom. Her children have even named it already: Tin Shack Tea Room.

Marietjie has no qualms about bargaining for whatever she wants, and tells how she had to seriously negotiate with the Volksrust Hotel for the largest in her collection of baking-powder tins, as it was the hotel’s tea caddy. So Marietjie bought them a smart new tea caddy in order to add the tin to her collection!

The rest of the house is also a gallery for the beautiful things that tell the tale of Marietjie and Robbie’s life. There aren’t many cupboards or much storage space in the old house, so the large wall areas (thanks to high ceilings) have been roped in to display special family treasures. Portraits, plates from both their mothers’ trousseaux, and cases and chests filled to the brim all form conversation pieces for the family.

They inspire the grandchildren and great-grandchildren to ask questions, allowing tales of the past to be carried forwards into the future.

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