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Unwritten Histories
Peter Magubane
Mine Inspection, South Africa

"Father worked in the gold mines of Johannesburg before I was born. I was in my thirties when I first laid eyes on Peter Magubane's book of photos of "mine boys". That book angered and disgusted me. But it wasn't till I came to the corresponding part of my father's life that a mule kicked me full in the belly. All this time, more than two decades after, the despicable things those photos depicted: grown men "naked as unpodded beans... dusted with sprayings of "DDT" and forced to show their anuses, regular inspection against theft of precious stones" -- the vicious truth never penetrated my defences.

Father worked in the mines. Mine bosses did such things to mine boys. But that such things were done to Father never occurred to me. How do you look at the man you have known all your life as "Protector, Provider, Soother of spirits bruised" and admit to yourself he suffered unimaginable violation, endured unspeakable humiliation? How does a child love and respect a father and know that that man has been treated in a manner no animal ever suffered and know that there are many who saw him as less than human? How do you swallow a father's bitter impotence?

I wept. When the realization hit me. When I could no longer deny that my father underwent such brutality, a sorrow so intense overcame me. And, I wept. For my father.

For all the men who had to leave their wives and their children, every year, for eleven months of the year, to go...

to a place of shadows, of dreams, of promises false.
Where lives are slighted, wasted, ill-used and squandered;
sacrificed to greed and need, real and manufactured.
Where rich men dream of richer riches;
and poor men die clawing at stones."

Sindiwe Magona "In Your Own Words"