Life in the shadow of South Africa’s gold mines

Life in the shadow of South Africa’s gold mines

Chasing El Dorado — In a new exhibition, photographer Marc Shoul examines the contrasting fortunes of those living in the country’s places of gold.

‘Egoli’, the Zulu name for Johannesburg, translates as ‘Place of Gold’. The city – South Africa’s largest – was founded in 1886 upon the discovery of multiple outcrops on stretches of farmland, prompting a mighty gold rush as would-be prospectors arrived in the country in their droves upon whispers of a modern day El Dorado. People flocked there in waves; they still do.

Today, a new exhibition from photographer Marc Shoul examines modern, post-apartheid South Africa in the shadow of that historic hunt for gold. Titled Flatlands/Brakpan, the show brings together images from the two titular projects – which debuted in 2009 and 2013 respectively – contrasting Johannesburg’s promise of a better future against the reality of Brakpan’s divisions and diminishing fortunes.

In Flatlands, Shoul captures the hustle and buzz of the inner-city’s densely-populated, multicultural landscape in post-Apartheid times, documenting the lives of those who make up the eponymous district’s diverse population. Meanwhile, with Brakpan, he took his camera 40km east of Johannesburg to the mining town that makes up the project’s title. While the latter instead focused on economic stagnation and racial tension, both are united in their unflinching portrayal of life among South Africa’s gold mining industry – be it the hunt for a better life, or the frustration of a languishing one.

8.-Derrick-Jan-Smuts-Dam-Brakpan-2008 9.-Davidson-exersing-his-broken-leg-Top-Star-Drive-Inn-Selby-20051 23.-Gerda-and-Yvona-Minnebrom-Brakpan-2009 29.-Nontando-having-her-braids-done-Nolia-Court-Brakpan-2011 31.-Prison-Release-Party-Minnabrom-Brakpan-2009 37.-Bafana-Bafana-Sports-Bar-Goods-Street-Brakpan-2010 48.Angelique-_Mexican-Sports-Bar_-Hillbrow-20062F67104.-Delight-Christmas-Day-Benjamin-Court-Yeoville-2004158.-Norma-Ora-Court-Bellevue-East-20061 60.Happy-Dolls-Ellis-Park-New-Doorfontein20061

Flatlands/Brakpan shows from September 29 to December 31, 2017 at Musée Pierre.

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