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.”
source; BLOOMSBURY AUCTIONS NYC, USA
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)