The economy of South Africa has been built on the mining industry. Mine workers have notoriously not benefited from this industry.
Since its inception the mining industry has been highly regulated to profit capitalistic mining structures. The industry since then has been wrought by artisanal mining. These so-called illegal miners (called zama zamas) resort to desperate and extremely dangerous measures in a plight to lift themselves from the poor socio-economic circumstances they are trapped in. They are chastised by society, hounded by the corporate mining industry; and government policies and regulation tarry to address their plight. The image, “Zama Zama” is of an artisanal miner arduously sifting the soil in the Kimberley area. His dust mask lined with the red soil has long since failed to offer him protection from the silica rich soil. The mask serves as a metaphor for a social system that is there but offers no recourse for his predicament. The image captures the rocking movement of the rudimentary make-shift mining equipment. The to and fro movement embodies the migration of these miners as they move between “mining sites” and their liquidity within social structures.
The cacophonous dust rises from tailing being sifted and in it you hear the dissonant silence of the marginalised drowned by the voices of capitalists’ structures. The image is a symbol of the cry of the humanity of socio-economically marginalised communities fighting to be heard.