Fikile Hlatshwayo is the author of Blacks DO Caravan (Jacana, 2016). The book tells the story of a South African family’s travels to 60 caravan parks across nine provinces, raking up 25 000km in the process. Blacks DO Caravan aims to inspire South Africans to take time out of their hectic schedules, spend time with their families and discover the beauty right outside their doorstep. This is an account of the family's journey in the province of extremes.
One of the highlights of our stay in the Northern Cape was when we visited the Big Hole in Kimberley. This precious gigantic hole is an open-pit that was dug entirely by hand using picks and shovels. It is estimated that nearly 50 000 miners worked tirelessly to dig this massive hole.
When we walked around the chilled underground mine, I could only imagine the vivacious voices of those miners full of hopes and dreams. This was history in the making, where the miner’s hands generated 2 722 kilograms of diamonds extracted from 22.5 million tonnes of excavated earth since it opened in 1871.
The reconstruction of the little diamond town is fascinating. The museum itself captures the journey of the colonial history of Southern Africa imposed by the diamond rush. As we walked on the viewing platform overlooking the massive Big Hole, I could only see the hardship and agony experienced by the miners. They walked far distances from their respective villages, leaving their families behind. I became very emotional thinking of how far we have come as a country and moving forward, we need to join forces, to work harder to rebuild a united South Africa.
I encourage every South African to visit this significant monument to better understand we have a lot to be grateful for and stop complaining. Those 50 000 miners worked hard every day without knowing what the future held for them. Lots of lives were lost through harsh working conditions. Some of the miners survived and live to tell the truthful stories of what they endured in those mines.
The Kimberley Mine Museum is a major step towards developing industrial tourism in South Africa. The Northern Cape has so much tourism potential given that it is the largest province in the country, but also has a rich natural and cultural heritage. South Africans, let us visit the Big Hole and enrich our children with knowledge of our historical significance. An amazing experience indeed!