/ 6 November 2021

The Portfolio: If there is a jol there you will go

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From the other side: A mine dump on Wemmer Pan Road, Johannesburg South, 2020. The photographer says Joburgers have an affinity for these dumps because, aside from a few natural ridges, the city is pretty flat. Photo: Marc Shoul

I’ve become more and more interested in mine dumps, because they are disappearing as a result of the reclamation. All the gold that was left in them is being taken out.

This photo reminds me of when I was living in Cape Town and we’d have raves and outdoor parties in the late 1990s and early 2000s. We went to weird places like that for a jol.

The dumps in Joburg are not that far from the city and you’re well protected, although it is pretty toxic. But with raves come drugs, so people would be taking toxic drugs and not be terribly worried about it. Joburgers have an affinity for these mine dumps because, aside from the Linksfield Ridge, the city is pretty flat. 

I do a bit of wandering with my camera on my back and I’m interested to see them from the other side. So that’s what I did that day and I was amazed. It was beautiful in so many ways — the textures, the colours.

I grew up in Port Elizabeth and went to study in Cape Town, which was where I did all of my jolling. I have lived in Joburg for 15 years. My night time jols have diminished quite a lot now that I have children. 

We used to do a lot of Newtown back in the day. There was a club called Fule, back when Newtown was up-and-coming, and then Kitcheners, back when Kitcheners was the only cool bar in Braamfontein. It’s an ever-evolving city: there is nothing sacred here. 

If a building is in the way, you take it down. I’ve seen books on yesteryear Joburg with buildings that were magnificent — be they Victorian or whatever — and they no longer exist; or, they may exist but are completely dilapidated. 

There is an amazing book of photographs on the Carlton Hotel, where famous people stayed in its heyday, but now it’s a complete dust bowl and there is nothing in it. 

I don’t go out to look for change in the city but change is a big part of it, like the move of capital from the city to Sandton. Not so long ago, I was in the city centre for the first time in a long time with my family, going to the Wits Art Museum and Fordsburg. The energy that you have in the city centre, which isn’t like the energy you have in Sandton or anywhere else, is similar to a European country or a big city in the States. 

If these mine dumps are toxic, and they are not even fenced off, then the question is: Are we taken care of in this city? But then again, if you’re young, you don’t give a fuck. If there is a party there, you’re gonna go.