During further research on my previous post a diggers lament I discovered a  rare book that gives quite a bizarre visual report of a bygone era; ‘Kimberley Diamond Mine, South Africa’ by photographer Robert Harris (1880-1894) and others. This rare book was estimated at $10000–£15000 and sold for $10000 on 24th October 2007 during an auction by Bloomsbury Auctions.

The album features a series of photographs recording the infamous practices of the mine owners in the early days of the South African diamond fields. The first ten photographs in this album form a quite standard ‘anthropological’ collection of images: the majority are of naked or semi-clad men and women from the Zulu people and other ethnic groups.

None of these photographs include a photographer’s name, but all are accompanied by manuscript titles. The second group of nine images, all by Robert Harris, show scenes inside the mining compound at Kimberley and record in detail the degrading body searches that the miners had to undergo at the end of each ‘shift’. The searching system was enforced on the labourers to ensure that they were not trying to smuggle out diamonds. Each of the photographs is accompanied by manuscript titling and, in most cases, explanatory notes. The mine owners were able to exert strong political pressure and in 1880 “Searching Ordinance No.1” was passed which allowed for the establishment of a comprehensive system of searching, including strip searching, at every mine. In 1883, the new Mining Regulations re-inforced the ordinance by requiring all mine workers, other than the managers, to wear uniforms, and to strip naked in searching houses at the end of each shift.

One contemporary account stated that “The most extraordinary sight at the compound is the searching room when every ‘boy’, before he can leave the company, is subjected to a week’s solitary confinement and given doses of “Eno” or “Cockla” to gently dislodge any diamonds he may have swallowed; and every inch of his body critically examined to see that none of the coveted gems are concealed in his hair, nose, mouth, ears, etc.”

Kimberley Mines SA -Robert Harris


Ladysmith Black Mambazo -Nansi Imali (Here Is The Money)

English lyrics of ‘” Nansi Imali (Here Is The Money)” by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Here is the money dug by the men in the mines

Where the fainthearted will not go

We congratulate our men for their bravery

And for risking their lives

We salute you

(written by J. Shabalala)

3 thoughts on “a diggers lament -Ladysmith Black Mambazo -Nansi Imali (Here Is The Money)

  1. I am writing a book about Diamonds – the history of their extraction and circulation. I have been trying to track Robert Harris’s photographs. I wonder if you know who purchased these photos in 2007 from Bloomsbury Auctions?. Does anyone have high resolution images as I would like to illustrate one of these pictures in my book. Any assistance gratefully received.

    1. hi, that book will surely be like an early history of South Africa as well. Good luck with your book.

      Probably Bloomsbury Auctions, the company that sold the book, should be able to inform you about the whereabouts of the buyer who bought the book. Maybe they have high resolution scans or pics from the book that was on auction. I have seen quite a few on their website. So who knows?

      regards, Eddy@Soulsafari

  2. Many thanks – I will call the auction house. Yes – it will deal with the scandalous story of diamond mining around the world – then and now

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s