Fame to fortune: ostrich feathers to ostrich eggshell lamps

Fame to fortune: ostrich feathers to ostrich eggshell lamps

The beautifully carved, unique ostrich eggshell lamps from Interiors of Africa are sourced from what was once the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn. Here, local artisans carefully carve, etch and paint the giant eggs from these flightless, native African birds; each egg is the equivalent in size to 24 chicken eggs!

The fame and fortune of the ostrich industry here has waxed and waned from its peak in the late 1800s when ostrich feathers were the fashion accessory to have, adorning the hats and capes of the well-to-do in Europe to slump in 1885 and then reach new heights in the early 1900s with more than a million birds being farmed. During this time, the town’s famous ‘feather palaces’ were built from the proceeds of export sales. Many of these houses, with their expansive grounds and magnificent exteriors, are still standing and are open to visitors. 

The death knell for the industry was the start of WWI in 1914, although local farmers credit the invention of the motor car as the long, plumed feathers did not fare well in the speedy transit offered by a car! Farmers in this region were forced to return to more conventional farming and to find novel ways of recouping their investment in ostrich farming.

Ostrich eggshell lamps – an age-old tradition with a modern twist

South Africa remains the world leader in this industry farming 80% of the world’s ostriches but the emphasis has turned away from the beautiful feathers to the quality leather and the healthy, low-fat meat that the bird offers. The ostrich eggshell has long been used for practical and decorative purposes; an engraved shell found at an archaeological site in Diepkloof dates back more than 60 000 years and this tradition continues with the completely original ostrich eggshell lamps sourced by Interiors of Africa. Take a look at some of these unique products, all carefully designed to echo Africa’s exotic wildlife and landscapes.

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