Diamond Diggers  


Name: Diamond Diggers
Medium: Bronze
Date Made: 1959
Dimensions: 250 high
Impala Fountain, The
Memorial To The 6 Million
Unity is Strength
Unknown Miner, The
Man and His Soul 2

This heroic five-figure fountain-ensemble was commissioned from Herman Wald to honour the men "who pioneered the diamond industry" for the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens in Kimberley. The presence of such a fountain in the dry mining city was obviously intended as a symbol of hard work, economic success and good government.

The image of the "hero-worker"  in this fountain was well-established sculptural rhetoric in Eastern-bloc countries like Hungary after some fell under Communist rule after World War I, when Herman Wald was still in his early teens. The doctrine of Socialist Realism which became the official style of all public sculptures in Soviet Russia under Stalin and epitomised by the gigantism of Vera Mukhina (1889-1953), set a trend that was emulated elsewhere. Mukhina's huge Worker and Collective Farm Girl (1937) was seen on the Soviet Pavilion at the World Fair in Paris the same year that Wald departed for South Africa. If Wald did not see it, he must at least have been aware of it through the media. The idealisation of the worker was also a feature of euphoric socialist-inspired imagery in Israel after its foundation in 1948, as is reflected in Wald's ceramic Chalutz Harvester (1953-1954).

While the rhetoric of Wald's Diamond Diggers' Fountain would appear to have its sources in official Eastern-bloc sculpture, the irony is that it celebrates the achievements of high-capitalism in South Africa's diamond mines. The specific identity of the idealised workers represented is highly ambiguous; perhaps deliberately so. Do they represent the white pioneer miners or the many black workers without whose cheap labour the extraction of the diamonds from the depths of the Kimberley Hole would not have been economically viable?

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