Mpumalanga, just one of South Africa’s nine provinces, is home to 46% of the country’s arable soil and several of its towns are top tourist destinations. It is also the backdrop to twelve active power burning coal stations that spew out poisonous pollution on a daily basis.
Broken Land is the response of multiple years of work by South African photographer Daylin Paul to this toxic landscape and the people who call it home. In 2017 he was the recipient of one of South Africa’s premier photographic prizes, the Ernest Cole Award, which helped fund Broken Land – the resultant book and a series of exhibitions by the same name.
Paul’s intimate and searing black and white images explore the direct impact of these nine fuel burning coal stations on the local economy and population – mostly a farming community.
He says, “These power stations, while providing electricity for an energy desperate South Africa, also have a devastating and lasting impact on the environment and the health of local people. Vast tracts of fertile, arable land are being ripped up, the landscape scarred with the black pits of coal mines while coal burning power stations, are one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the world.” And it is not just the gas that’s the problem – toxic sulphur effluent also poisons the scarce water supplies the communities are dependent on for their survival.
The effects you see in his images are not restricted to South Africa of course. This is a global issue.
Wits Art Museum, Johannesburg, South Africa
Opens October 8, 2019