By PAUL DUNCAN
Photographs by ALAIN PROUST
Kimberley is the city that quite literally sprang up overnight in the middle of nowhere late in the nineteenth century. For a while it was the hub of South Africa and a powerhouse of the British Empire. An early visitor to Kimberley once said: ‘The place was stuffed with money. There were more millionaires to the square foot than any other place in the world.’ And this financial muscle gave the Empire-builders the confidence to transform a mining camp into a modern city. Here began the life of industrialised South Africa.
Much of that early city has survived and INSIDE KIMBERLEY reveals a diverse collection of historic buildings that made it through the 20th century. They conjure up a compelling impression of the diamond city 150 years ago – a city with enough architectural sights to satisfy any amateur historian or receptive visitor. The great personalities of the day are never really far of sight. From Cecil Rhodes, Ernest Oppenheimer and a coterie of diamond millionaires to Sol Plaatje and Robert Sobukwe – the larger-than-life characters who lived and worked here – Kimberley is dotted with places associated with them all.
INSIDE KIMBERLEY presents 24 historically significant buildings that piece together the story of a city once the second most important in South Africa. From Gothic churches to Herbert Baker’s Honoured Dead Memorial, from the Africana Library to Rhodes’ Boardroom at De Beers Mining Company’s original Warren Street office, this book provides a glimpse into vanished society – glamorous, hard-bitten and tragic – and the city that diamonds built.