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A Large Iron Hard-On

A Large Iron Hard-On

by Andy Davis / 03.09.2009

Look upon this hulk of a man. Like a superhero from our history holding the chunk of rock with the glinting seam of gold up to the sky, before his God, the heavy miner’s pick in his left hand, his sinewy bronze muscles straining with metallic machismo. This statue is a large iron hard-on for Joburg’s defining moment.

And you’ve got to love Johannesburg, the city built on gold and dreams. Dreams of wealth, mainly. A spot of greed, avarice and pride mixed up in her effervescent blood stream. Ebbing back and forth between the haves and the nots, much like the crime wave. Swirling amidst the disparate communities and experiences, omnipresent in the hodge-podge melting pot of Afrika’s gritty combustion chamber. The statue functions as a kind of compass, in case we forget what we’re doing here. Get the gold, homey! Chase the loot. Make bucks. Dig the rock and hold it aloft so everyone can see. Jozi.

But the most wonderful thing about Joburg, is every now and again she offers us a glimpse of how she sees herself. Or, better, how former, apartheid era city council officials saw her. Much like the gym boy at Old Eds pumping iron in the mirror, sees himself. This statue of George Harrison, no not the 5th Beatle, the original discoverer of the rich vein of gold upon which the city was built, speaks volumes of the city’s exaggerated hubris and myth making.

Gold Diggers?

Just 123 years ago an ageing Australian prospector, of suspicious moral fiber, was traipsing through the endless highveld savannah that is now populated by Johannesburg. In between lashing his beasts of burden (and, probably, his slave labour) and shooting some of the many buffalo, elephants, rhinos, giraffes, elands, lions, leopards and other game that called this place home, he took some time to do a spot of prospecting. Stories of gold on the reef had been circulating for some time, after discoveries in the Lowveld and Barberton, and so Harisson kept with him a small prospector’s pick to chip away at rocky outcroppings in search of the elusive metal and his fortune. Somewhere near the Langlaagte Vehicle Testing Station he stumbled across such an outcropping of rock. Being an old man, he probably stooped over the rock and chipped a small piece off with his pick and held it up, like a small, aged hobbit squinting into the light, to see the vein glint and shimmer.

He certainly looked nothing like this Hercules. Harisson then staked his claim and started mining, but with little success. The Goldrush ensued, and others were luckier. Who knows why, but Harisson soon sold his claim for £10 and slunk off into the veld, perhaps to return home to Australia. No one knows. He disappeared soon after. Some reports suggest that he was murdered after falling foul of an acquaintance. Who knows

Perhaps most tellingly, the large bronze plaque that declared: ‘George Harisson Discovers Gold’, at the base of the monument, has been stolen.

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RESPONSES (8)
  1. Mandla says:

    Now this is one of many things i didn’t know about Johannesburg. It would be interesting for our tour operators to include such interesting stories and site visits when they take the tourists through South Africa next year and beyond 2010

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  2. Oom Paul says:

    First the Uitlander…this caused our land to be soaked in blood…and now the Prawns…hele wereld!

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  3. Jason Bronkhorst says:

    Technically the Prawns are Uitlanders too?

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  4. Oom Paul says:

    Technically they are Uitruimters…but what would I know…I apparently think the world is flat…I’ll just sit back, take some kick-backs, smoke a pipe and bash them with my Groot Boek if they start asking for franchise.

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  5. Sean says:

    In case anyone’s curious, the sculptor of this nine metre bronze in Settlers Park, a work titled The Miner, is Tienie Pritchard (www.tieniepritchard.co.za). GIven his facility with the human form, might not Liberty Properties have opted for him to sculpt the Mandela effigy that graces Mandela Square. Incidentally, the name behind that towering monstrosity is Kobus Hattingh, an artist who established his name designing and manufacturing badges, crests and statues for the apartheid military and police. (www.kobushattingh.co.za – check out Kobus sculpting Naas on the splash page.)

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  6. The Oracle says:

    Awesome article dude……

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  7. Mary says:

    Hey Sean, tell us some more! That would be a RAD article.

    They should be getting Egon Tania who did the bronzes down on the foreshore in Cape Town to do all our public sculptures. He’s awesome.

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  8. screaming doc hansen says:

    Not much of a prospector. You’ll never see a glint against the backdrop of the sky, especially a UV soaked Joburg sky. You need to look down at the fragment and preferably have it underwater so that the reflection from other minerals is suppressed by the refractive index of the water. The 49ers in california who stood waste deep in mountain streams with a pan full of water, were more on the money. My guess is that Harrison or one of his crew got the information from a local who knew one of the iron forge operators who had been working in the Tvl for several centuries. Theres much more rediscovering than discovering.

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