Johannesburg Feature

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Posing on a Gold Mine

In 1952, Dolly Rathebe, a young black woman who was to become a jazz-singing legend, and a white German photographer, Jürgen Schadeberg, scrambled to the top of a gold-mine dump for a Drum magazine photo shoot. The photograph looks like it was taken on some strange beach: Rathebe smiles, posing in a bikini. They were spotted by the police and arrested under the Immorality Act, which forbade intercourse between blacks and whites. This dump was at Crown Mines, and is now the site of the Crown Mines Golf Course. Today there's a street in Newtown named after Rathebe, who died in 2004 at the age of 76. Schadeberg is still alive and lives in South Africa.

Today you can see gold-mine dumps along the edge of town marching east and west along the seam of gold. Some are close to 300 feet high. Many people are fond of them—they are one of the city's defining characteristics—but those who live nearby are blinded by the dust, and little vegetation grows on the dumps. Since they're also rich in minerals, they're slowly being chipped away and re-mined, and in years to come, they may be completely gone.

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