Wake Up, This is Joburg

Decades after the mining houses closed shop in Joburg, the metal that made this the wealthiest city on the continent continues to attract fortune seekers. Now they come to glean what is left of a once-booming industry, from the mine dumps and in the abandoned shafts beneath the city.

These ‘artisanal miners’, or ‘Zama Zamas’, use an ancient pick-and-shovel method to extract the gold. It’s a gamble and the work is fraught with danger. But the money earned sends children to school, pays rent and keeps households and communities afloat.

In Undercity, photographer Mark Lewis and writer Tanya Zack once again seek to understand the myriad ways in which Johannesburg is being repurposed, re-invented and re-inhabited. The miners they meet endure brutally hard conditions and danger, but they are nothing if not tenacious, and many of them see this work as a way of making a better life for themselves and their families.

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Undercity: An alternative story of Joburg that’s more about what’s out of sight than what’s hidden

Image: Mark Lewis