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    The Gardens are a memorial to the late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, diamond magnate and the first elected mayor of the municipality of the city of Kimberley when Beaconsfield and Kimberley were combined into a city in 1912.
    These Oppenheimer Gardens are a picturesque memorial to Sir Ernest Oppenheimer. He was the founder of the global Anglo American Corporation, in 1917, a mining magnate and first elected Mayor of Kimberley when Beaconsfield and Kimberley were combined into a city in 1912. The bust of Oppenheimer, in marble, sits proudly overlooking the Rose Garden and Diggers Fountain.
    The most striking feature of the Gardens is the Diggers Memorial Fountain. It was designed by Herman Wald, a South African Sculpture, born in Hungary in 1906. This stunning working fountain was erected in honour of past miners of the Kimberley Mine. It depicts five life-size miners holding up a diamond sieve and each of the five figures represents one of Kimberley’s five big diamond mines, namely Kimberley Mine, De Beers Mine, Bultfontein Mine, du Toitspan Mine and Wesselton Mine.
    The gardens are a relaxing spot for visitors where a quiet moment can be enjoyed between the activities of the day.
    No admission fee
    Open to the public.
    The road around the Oppenheimer Gardens was originally name Jan Smuts Boulevard but was renamed to Sol Plaatje Drive.
    More on the Diggers Memorial Statue
    Name: Diamond Diggers Monument
    Medium: Clay
    Date Made: 01/12/1960
    Dimensions: Life-size
    This heroic five-figure fountain-ensemble was commissioned from Herman Wald to honour the men “who pioneered the diamond industry” for the Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens in Kimberley. The presence of such a fountain in the dry mining city was obviously intended as a symbol of hard work, economic success and good government.
    The work was commissioned by De Beers at a cost of £10 000

    The image of the “hero-worker”  in this fountain was well-established sculptural rhetoric in Eastern-bloc countries like Hungary after some fell under Communist rule after World War I, when Herman Wald was still in his early teens. The doctrine of Socialist Realism which became the official style of all public sculptures in Soviet Russia under Stalin and epitomised by the gigantism of Vera Mukhina (1889-1953), set a trend that was emulated elsewhere. Mukhina’s huge Worker and Collective Farm Girl (1937) was seen on the Soviet Pavilion at the World Fair in Paris the same year that Wald departed for South Africa. If Wald did not see it, he must at least have been aware of it through the media. The idealisation of the worker was also a feature of euphoric socialist-inspired imagery in Israel after its foundation in 1948, as is reflected in Wald’s ceramic Chalutz Harvester (1953-1954).

    While the rhetoric of Wald’s Diamond Diggers’ Fountain would appear to have its sources in official Eastern-bloc sculpture, the irony is that it celebrates the achievements of high-capitalism in South Africa’s diamond mines. The specific identity of the idealised workers represented is highly ambiguous; perhaps deliberately so. Do they represent the white pioneer miners or the many black workers without whose cheap labour the extraction of the diamonds from the depths of the Kimberley Hole would not have been economically viable?



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    1 Review on “Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens and Diggers Fountain”

    1. Catherine Reichardt Ernest Oppenheimer Memorial Gardens and Diggers Fountain

      The Diamond Diggers Memorial fountain in the Ernest Oppenheimer Gardens is a ravishingly gorgeous piece of sculpture in the centre of Kimberley, which celebrates the physical strength of the men on which the wealth of the city was built.

      Well … at least some of them …

      If you thought that Soviet realist art was confined to the former Eastern Bloc of Europe, then think again – this monument would look equally at home in Budapest, Moscow and Riga! This monument to Aryan manhood provides a very skewed reflection on the people who sweat and exertions realised the economic potential of the mineral resource, and much though I despise political correctness, this is one instance in which I think a smidgeon might have been judiciously applied.

      If however, we’re throwing the historical significance out the window and dealing with this on a purely aesthetic level, then all that honed, rippling muscle is admittedly very appealing in a Chippendale sort of way …

      This statue was one of two commissions awarded by the much-loved mining magnate Sir Harry Oppenheimer to commemorate his equally titanic father, Sir Ernest and was sculpted by the Hungarian emigre, Herman Wald. Its ‘sister’ sculpture is the glorious ‘Stampede’ sculpture of leaping impala that was donated by Sir Harry to the City of Johannesburg.

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