Crown Mines

1cmweb_530_326_90I moved into Crown Mines in 1977, as the gold mine was closing down. This was the year I began photographing seriously, having joined a photography workshop taught by David Goldblatt. Crown Mines was the subject of my first project.

Compound and village

Though there were few skilled miners still living in the cottages, the single-sex mine compound just down the road was still occupied. I timidly sneaked some shots of the compound, and later, after it had been demolished, returned with my camera to photograph the dissected bunk rooms and lavatories, that had been home to so many working men.

Crown Mines compound, 1977
Crown Mines compound, 1977

Crown Mines compound, 1977
Demolished compound showing bathroom block in the centre with rooms on both sides, 1978
Miners' sleeping bays, each one just big enough for one body, 1978
Communal lavatories, 1978
Mine church, 1978
The top road, Langlaagte Deep
Wisteria season
Back road between the houses
The village, with Joburg skyline, from a mine dump
Miner's house
View from my bedroom window

Crown Mines people

By 1979 Crown Mines had become something of a liberated zone.The 200 houses were now occupied by a vibrant alternative community of activists of all kinds. Trade unionists, educationists, artists, musicians, photographers, co-op workers, rural development and other NGO workers lived alongside students and young families. Communal life included shared meals, vegetable gardening and a vegetable-buying co-op, and at various times bread-baking, womens groups, Capital reading groups etc. There were parties, large and small, most weekends; front doors stood open, and children and dogs roamed the village streets without fear.


Self portrait, 1978
Self portrait, 1978

Self portrait, 1978
Picnic in a field near the village, 1978
Malcom surfing the mine dump, 1978
Geoff after work, 1978
Mark in the kitchen, 1978
Sonia, Healther, Rita, Mushie
Kahn's cooking supper
Mel and Hass
Stanley and Lesley
Jo at Peacock Cottage
Eddie and friend at Peacock Cottage
Sue and Roger at Peacock Cottage
Des, Paulia and friend discussing sewing group
Maurice, morning at 849
Lesley, morning at 849
Biddy at Karen's farewell party, Peacock cottage
Nick's first birthday party
Nick and Stevie
Mam' Lydia


May Day, 1981

As political oppression intensified the Crown Minese idyll dimmed. By 1981 much of 'the white left' had become active -  directly, or indirectly - in the political underground. Several inhabitants of the Mine were involved in the nationwide defiance of the 20th anniversary of Republic Day, and other acts of resistance. The Mine came under close scrutiny by the security police and there were many arrests there, and across the country. Several Crown Miners were held in solitary confinement. Neil Aggett, a frequent overnight visitor to the Mine, died in detention in February 1982 after 70 days of torture and detention without trial. The photographs below show a May Day dinner in the Crown Mines Scout Hall, which included talks on the signficance of May Day, tutoring on how to sing 'Nkosi Sikel iAfrica, and a play about 'a girl from Benoni'.


Share this article...