For over a hundred years, South Africa was the largest producer of the world’s gold.
More gold has been extracted from its reserves than from all the other mines in the world combined. Ever.
But today, many of these mines are closing. New waves of migrants are entering into their abandoned but unsealed shafts, to scavenge for gold in the deep. The most daring of these informal miners are called ‘zama zamas.’ The phrase means to “keep on trying,” but also “to gamble.”
Zama zamas stake everything to survive - but not all of them do. The work is dangerous, both for the men who go underground and for the women who grind the rock by hand in order to extract the gold. Without helmets or safety equipment, with neither ventilation nor dewatering, lighting the way with only bicycle head-lamps, zama zamas are indeed gamblers, those who stake everything for survival.
We are Zama Zama tells their stories.