"Well as a result..." . Jo-Anne Green . 1988-1990
 
"Well, as a result
of pain, there are some
Who are born, others grow, still others die,
And others who are not born nor do they die (they are the majority)."

– Cesar Vallejo
 
Series One (1-9)
 
To a young Johannesburg-born child, the majestic goldmine dumps that dotted the outskirts of the city inspired little more than curiosity as to why grass was planted in neat rows along the sides of them and how the rock became fine gold dust. In school, I was taught that miners were guided through maze-like tunnels by small flashlights attached to their hard-hats, that canaries were carried with them — their deaths a sign that oxygen was running out. I also remember photographs of black miners pressed against pounding drills, sweat running in streams from their dust-masked eyes and deafened ears. Elevators hurtled two miles down into pitch-blackness, their passengers returning twelve hours later, numb with heat and exhaustion, aching with hunger and thirst — sometimes into night, sometimes long dead…

1200 men are injured and 600 killed in mining accidents each year.

… the elevators spit their passengers into the loneliness of night. Men drag themselves through rows of indistinguishable buildings, walk beside endless rows of concrete beds, finally reaching #68, #576, #1267. Aching bodies lie down dreaming of vast open spaces, star-strewn skies, and silences interrupted only by the soft breath of wife, mother, son, lover.

Most miners see their families for only three weeks of each year. The shaft heads of those Johannesburg mines still remain. Only they and their apartheid victims know the severity and the costliness of a system that renders human life worthless while simultaneously producing unfathomed wealth for the privileged few.
 
Series 2 (10-13)

We approached Noria Mabasa's home on foot, winding our way through other peoples' yards to hers, which lay on the edge of dry earth, thorny scrub and blue sky. We were oblivious intruders, entering the womb of a woman who had long ago lost her husband to the mines, and more recently to the hands of murders on a dark township street. Noria greeted us dressed in mourning; the sadness in her eyes was unavoidable and yet we stayed.

The entrance to Noria's home was flanked on either side by clay female figures; their backs turned to the outside world, they compelled us to enter the ‘safe’ space over which they watched. The sculptures were raw, eroded by wind and sun, crumbling, yet assuring in their postures. A large clay policeman, planted in flowering shrubs, protected Noria’s room which stood to the right of the courtyard. Many smaller policemen lay scattered in the brush behind the house, camouflaged by dust, disguised by the chickens perched on their shoulders; more chickens fluttered around a mound of shards, relics or trash, or both. Around the corner, a small clay man in a black suit leaned against a low wall, his painted head cracked open to reveal his earthy skin. Noria, it seems, has been persuaded to ‘dress’ her figures as colonial ‘types’ — businessmen and clergymen inhabit craft stores, galleries, museums and private homes.

Since the time of my visit, the reddish-brown clay walls have been adorned with colorful, organic shapes. The entranceway figures have been replaced by two new figures: on the left, a woman, naked except for a small beaded apron; on the right, a male city-dweller clothed in suit and hat. Noria’s rural presence is united with her husband’s urban absence.


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