Installation using archival images of Victorian Johannesburg, housed in a room in the historic Cosmopolitan Hotel, looking onto Johannesburg’s first street. The Cosmopolitan was once one of the city’s best hotels, but in later years was a brothel, before its current use as art gallery and studio spaces.
Joburg was famous for its gold rush, drawing fortune seekers from around the world. These stories are well documented. But consider that these people were almost all male, and mostly European – scratching below the surface by looking at old photographs, there are hints of a very different world behind the Victorian facades – widespread prostitution, interracial sex, gay relationships (several prominent randlords were homosexual). Later, Calvinist laws swept a lot of this away, or under cover. Long before Apartheid, the British colonial authorities started laying the foundations for racial separation, beginning in the bedrooms of the gold mining town.