Brakpan

Marc Shoul

With little to show for its prosperous coal and gold mining past, Brakpan on Johannesburg's eastern fringe is a curious microcosm of South African working class life.~~ Brakpan is a small town that lies on the East Rand of Gauteng, sandwiched between Boksburg, Benoni and Springs. A once-prosperous mining community, today there are pawnshops, roadhouses, mechanics, mini casinos and other day-to-day shops lining the two main roads that slice through the town. Brakpan is like going back in time. Many aspects of the town are a reminder of an older South Africa. Despite all the changes in nearby Johannesburg, Brakpan still goes about its business in much the same way as it did before. There is a lack of modern development. You don’t see Tuscan townhouse complexes or buildings with glass facades. It’s all very simple and straight forward - almost transparent. And this transparency is apparent with Brakpan's inhabitants too. You won’t find any airs or graces, no fancy cafes, sushi bars or organic food shops here.

The town was founded in the late 1800s following the discovery of a coal seam nearby. By the time of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), Brakpan was home to South Africa’s premier coal-producing pit, with its power station supplying power to the archipelago of industrial towns founded in the wake of the 1886 Witwatersrand Gold Rush.~~Brakpan has also been marked by key political events. The town’s gold mine was violently occupied by white strikers during the 1922 Rand Rebellion. And, from the 1930s, city officials began pioneering race-based segregationist policies that were later employed on a national scale during the Apartheid era. While these policies have since been overtaken by the post-Apartheid ethos of the 'Rainbow Nation' some elements of division still remain.~~The town doesn't seem to have benefited from its gold rush glory days and now has very little to show for its past. Today, the once flourishing mining town only digs out a small portion of gold compared to what it used to generate, and some disused gold mines now only sell rubble.~~A second factor that has contributed to Brakpan’s lack of change is the development of Carnival Mall and Casino, which conveniently lies just off the highway, a few kilometres from central Brakpan. All the major chains and retail shops have moved to the mall and, as a result, the town centre has been left untouched and undeveloped, stunting it economically and leaving its inhabitants with few opportunities.~~And yet, there are many faces to modern Brakpan. Young mothers push prams along the pavements while pirated DVDs are sold on the streets, crippling the nearby video shops that rent out older movies. There is a strong sense of nostalgia which is reflected in the buildings and in the people. This is a place where you can still enjoy school and church fetes, rugby matches, old bars, sokkie dances, biker rallies, fishing and braaiing (barbecuing) at the Jan Smuts Dam.~~This side of Brakpan is one of a peaceful and relaxed country town without the stress about what the next day may bring. The people of Brakpan live in the now but are also bound by the constraints of their past.

 

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      SOUTH AFRICA

      Newly weds Linkie and Rudolph stand beside a tree at...

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      A mannequin sits at a table.

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      A woman makes a phone call during a party.

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      Courtney, Miss Petite sits in the hatch of a car...

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      Derrick, displays his tattoos, at Jan Smuts Dam.

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      Herbert a security guard working at PQS Factory...

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      Roxanne stifles a yawn while she watches a child...

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      Jane and Buks sunbathing at Jan Smuts Dam.

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      Yolandi, plays the piano at her parents home on...

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      Enzo, a tiger cub, sitting on a sofa in a house on...

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      Jabu, a pupper master, and and two of his puppets in...

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      Three men struggle to raise a large wardrobe to the...

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      The lobby of the Park Hotel on Bedford Street.

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      Fallen tree branches on a children's slide in a park...

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      Scrap wire at Shaft 6 of the Pamodzi Gold Mine.

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      Spectators at the Nitro Raceway, at the Brakpan...

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      Gerda and Chad, working on a car's engine.

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      A pair of school children kissing on Porter Street.

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      A couple walk past the Brakpan Hotel on Prince George...

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      A man beats the burning grass, set ablaze by a Drag...

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      An Afrakans sign that reads: 'Brakpan for Jesus' in a...

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      Michael a welder at H&H Makado Trade.

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      A Father Christmas effigy on Kerry Street.

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      A man stands at the entrance to the function hall at...

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      Participants in the Jesus Festival (Jees Fees), on...

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      Marius throws the shot put at the Town Council Sports...

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      Vistors at the Jesus Festival held at the Bosman...

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      L-R: Janet, Simpiwe and Elias at Gift at Elizabeth's...

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      Freddie sitting beneath a shade at the Exel Garage on...

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      A man dances in the Bafana Bafana Sports Bar on Goods...

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      Guests at tables in the Atlantic Disco on Voortrekker...

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      Two men at the Bafana Bafana Sports Bar on Goods...

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      Nontando has her braids done at a house in Nolia...

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      A mannequin outside a house on Wenden Street.

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      DJ. Sokki Jol works at a computer at Brakpan Town Hall.

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      A party to celibrate the release of a prisoner held...

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