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Brakpan

Brakpan is a gold and uranium mining town with a population of 340 00 inhabitants. It is located in the Gauteng province of South Africa, about 40km east of Johannesburg

The town was founded in the late 1800s following the discovery of coal and was named after the brackish waters of a small pan on a nearby farm. 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.

Despite being known as a gold, platinum and uranium producer, Brakpan is now a settlement of diminishing fortunes – showing little evidence of its mining “glory days”, which spanned from 1911 until the mid 1950’s.  Recent economic developments have centered on the construction of the Carnival City Mall and Casino; a world away from the central business district which has been left untouched, undeveloped and economically stunted

And so, while the nearby metropolis of Johannesburg grows and changes, Brakpan still lies comfortably in its vessel of formaldehyde.

Marc Shoul photographed Brakpan between 2008 to 2012.