A city built on gold, Johannesburg was founded in 1886, when settlers and immigrants descended on the largest reef of the precious metal ever to be discovered. The area transformed quickly into a mining mecca. Within fifty years, over three hundred thousand people were working in gold mines across the city. This vast and rapid expansion reflected the increasing global thirst for gold as a commodity and helped fuel a government that changed South Africa forever.
Long after the mining has finished, its environmental and social impact is still embedded in the fabric of modern Johannesburg. Tailings dams, the by-product of past extractions, now exist as manufactured mountains of waste. Six billion tonnes of these ‘mine dumps’ form the backdrop of Southern Africa’s largest city. These vast monuments are a constant reminder of the productivity of the past, whilst attracting a plethora of contemporary activities. With around four hundred thousand people currently living around the six billion tonnes of toxic waste, the resurgence of re-mining the dumps for remaining gold is stirring an already fragile existence for many.
Tales From The City Of Gold explores these tailings as an integrated extension of the thriving metropolis that surrounds them. Anthropological in its approach, this project is the result of living in Johannesburg for two years, observing the ordinary and extraordinary nature of life alongside the dumps. Focusing on the coexistence between past and present allows a unique perspective on the actions of previous generations and reveals that impact on our society and environment today.
Authors: Julian Rodriguez, Mara Kardas-Nelson
Photography feature – Artists: Jason Larkin
Designed by Realise Creative (James Greenhow)
Hardcover – 24 x 28 cm
Pages – 96
Publisher – Kehrer