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David Goldblatt’s ‘On the Mines’ finds its home at Norval Foundation

Norval Foundation, as the custodians of The Homestead Art Collection, have acquired David Goldblatt’s entire photographic series On the Mines, which is set to be exhibited as a complete set for the first time at the Foundation. The exhibition is on view from 13 February, with a reception and walkabout on 17 February. Norval Foundation, along with Yale University, are the sole custodians of the full series of photographs.

Norval Foundation David Goldblatt On the Mines photography black and white
David Goldblatt
Winder house, Farrar Shaft, Anglo Mines, Germiston, 1965
Gelatin silver print
46 x 57 cm

On the Mines is a consolidated body of work and comprises some of David Goldblatt’s earliest works, as well as some of his most recent photographs, spanning a career lasting five decades.
     The series documents the communities and landscape associated with the gold and platinum mines of Gauteng, South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s. This exhibition, curated by Karel Nel, will be accompanied by texts written by Nobel laureate, Nadine Gordimer. Her essays sensitively respond to Goldblatt’s photographs.
     Goldblatt (1930 – 2018) grew up in the mining town of Randfontein, which existed in large part thanks to the operations of the gold mines that surrounded it. When these mines started to fail in the mid-1960s, Goldblatt began taking photos of them, an endeavour that would form his now iconic series and book produced together with Gordimer, On the Mines.
     The series consists of three photographic essays: ‘The Witwatersrand: A Time and Tailings’, ‘Shaftsinking’, and ‘Mining Men’. Describing the Witwatersrand, otherwise known as the ‘Rand’ or ‘Reef’, Goldblatt wrote, ‘[it is] a vast geological formation extending some 280 kilometres from Klerksdorp in the southwest to Bethal in the northeast and about 200 kilometres across at its widest. It is in this basin that South Africa’s major gold-bearing reefs have been found. The mining of the reefs since their discovery near Johannesburg in 1886 has produced 40% of all the gold ever mined in history.’
     In the book, Goldblatt introduced his essay on ‘Shaftsinking’ by setting the scene of the photographs. ‘Water rains ceaselessly onto the shaft bottom which consists of jagged heaps of loose rock flung up by the previous blast. Fifty feet above is the only illumination: four lamps fixed to the underside of the stage. The stage hangs, six stories [tall] and [made of] eighty tons of steel, on ropes from the surface. As the shaft deepens, so the stage will be lowered further. On it work the men who line the shaft with concrete and fit it out for the gold mine it is to serve.’

To read more about Goldblatt’s landscapes, structures, and people of South Africa as well as his involvement in the Market Photography Workshop in Johannesburg, purchase our February 2019 issue from only R18 or continue supporting our role in the arts and culture industry by subscribing to our monthly magazine from R108 per year.

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