James Thomas, a Johannesburg-based artist who specialises in making sketches inspired by the city, has his work on exhibit at The Firestation in Rosebank. This building houses the shared workspace provider Workshop 17 as well as Dipula Income Fund. Dipula, a listed real estate investment trust (Reit), owns 28.5% of the 14900m2 office building.
Thomas’ exhibit is called Myna, Miner. What’s Yours is Mine.
Here is his description:
Johannesburg, The City of Gold, is dotted by mine dumps and scarred with the holes that buried them. These golden monoliths stand as monuments to remind us where the city comes from. Though golden in appearance, these mounds hold a history of both cunning enterprise and harsh exploitation that ripples into the present.
The Indian mynah is a well-known bird to all residents of the city. It is referred to as an “introduced pest” and was brought to South Africa at the beginning of the 20th century. Coincidentally, this was the beginning of the gold rush in Johannesburg and the dawn of the people that would become known as The Randlords.
The Randlords, being the mine bosses, would go on to reap the land of all its gold and acquire vast sums of wealth, all on the backs of the subjugated masses.
The Mynah in these works is the randlord. An omnivorous species with no natural predators, a symbol of a bygone era. An image of the decaying of colonial rule that is evident in the canvas itself. Their legacy hovers over the empire of Johannesburg that once belonged to them.
Conversely, the miners in my work are just that, miners. The men and women who moved the earth to create Johannesburg. This body of work serves to criticise and to honour. To investigate the legacy and potential future of the city and its people. Posing more questions than answers.
Johannesburg appears to be a fallen empire, with its crumbling infrastructure, decaying monuments and rampant poverty. However, as far as I can see, there is hope. Johannesburg serves as a budding bastion for the young South African. A place, like before, that promises great prospects. Although, this time around, these prospects are available to all. Despite the looming shadow of the once mighty Mynah.