ANDANTE is the name of a new shop in The Yard on Harbour Road, Kleinmond. ‘In moderately slow tempo’ is how the Oxford Dictionary defines this musical term – which could probably describe life in Kleinmond in general. And certainly as you step through the front door of the shop, nostalgia for an unpretentious, more leisurely lifestyle is what strikes you immediately – liberally spiced with iconic items of startling ‘Boere’ kitsch.

Helma Potgieter relaxes on the small stage of her mini theatre in ANDANTE.

The owner of this quirky emporium, Helma Potgieter is no stranger to the residents or regular visitors to Kleinmond. Referred to as a force to be reckoned with, her previous project was the busy little shop called ANEW, also in The Yard and also filled with interesting retro items, including clothes, many sourced from her own family. She sold the shop in mid-2017. But after a period, which included three months, then six months in the UK, as well as a serious health scare, she thought: “Okay, so I’ve been there, done that, so what’s next?”

When her former landlord called and asked if she might be interested in another, larger venue in the same complex, she took it without a second thought. “I always follow my dreams and knew it was exactly the right time and space to bring together several of the projects I had been involved with in the past. And that’s what ANDANTE is all about. I don’t want to speed along in the fast lane any more, I want to ‘dance to the slow music of life’.”

This slowing down thing doesn’t seem to have kicked in yet, though. The large double-volume, rough-plastered space is already packed with memorabilia of every kind – display cabinets filled with glassware and china, stainless steel, old prints and paintings on the walls, previously-loved dolls and teddy bears, small items of furniture, an old sewing machine, a hippo made from bottle caps…

Helma’s assistant, Felicia April, beside a stand of Pamphiri Indaba gift bags which Felicia makes.

“I’m having such fun visiting charity shops and sales,” laughs Helma. “The best is when I unpack the boxes in the shop and clean the pieces up; you never know how something is going to turn out. I love the fact that each piece has a history of its own.”

Prominently displayed in the shop, too, is a stand laden with beautiful, hand-made gift bags in every shape, size and colour. These are the Pamphiri Indaba bags Helma and a partner designed and started producing in 2009. “It was the beginning of the recycle movement, and we used old newspapers and magazines to make the bags. We sold them throughout this region and even in Cape Town; they became very popular. One of the original crafters, Felicia April, has now taken over the project and is also my right hand in the shop.”

Another of Helma’s passions is the performing arts, whether music or the spoken word. From time to time in the past, she and her friend, Christa Dreyer, organised successful poetry readings and other mini theatrical events. The deciding factor when she saw her new premises was that they lent themselves to the creation of a tiny theatre at the back which could accommodate about 50 seats in the manner of a baroque-era music salon or voorkamer (front room) home theatre.

Helma is wildly excited about the possibilities this offers and is planning from next year on to organise at least a monthly event. “It’s ideal for anything small and relaxed,” she bubbles, “like Niki Daly’s recent children’s book launch or a book reading by Greyton’s Carol Gibbs that we’re planning for 7 December.

“The main thing is we want to feature local talent, rather than bringing performers in from any of the metropolitan centres. We have a well-tuned piano and it would be great to feature soloists or small groups of musicians, even a drumming circle, perhaps an open mic, or play or poetry readings; for instance, at the time of André P Brink’s death, we presented a tribute to him which turned out to be very successful. There is definitely an audience here for this kind of event. We may even link up with one of our local coffee shops or restaurants in a kind of supper theatre format. It’s not just theatre, it’s about building community, too.”

Helma is also presently organising live music in the shop over weekends. With a name like ANDANTE, the more music, the better. Kleinmond has, on occasion, been likened to something of a cultural wilderness, but a number of initiatives in the town like this one are intent on proving the nay-sayers wrong. And in its own slow, old-fashioned way, it’s beginning to make its mark.

Helma can be contacted on helma@vodamail.co.za or 082 443 2292.

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