An installation by Rosalind Morris about the world of informal mining in the abandoned gold mines of South Africa


Documentary for Critical Times

A conversation about the possibilities and limits of the moving image in times of crisis with Rosalind Morris and Susan Meiselas

Fields of Knowledge
  • Aesthetics / Media
  • Public culture
  • Social Justice

Organizing Institutions


Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce "Documentary for Critical Times," a conversation about the possibilities and limits of the moving image in times of crisis, on Thursday, February 20, 2020 from 6:30-8pm. Organized in conjunction with the installation The Zama Zama Project, this event will feature a conversation with Susan Meiselas and Rosalind Morris about what it means to produce documents and documentaries of crisis—whether in the context of revolution, or in the aftermath of political violence and social upheaval, or against the backdrop of ongoing processes of deprivation and destitution, migration and unsettlement. Reflecting on their respective efforts in very different times and places, Meiselas and Morris will discuss the different challenges of documenting the event and the fact of everyday violence.

The Zama Zama Project, on display through March 20, 2020, features high-resolution, immersive video and narrative documentary shorts about the lives of men and women who make their living scavenging for gold. This collaborative project led by Rosalind Morris grows out of long-term research in the Witwatersrand gold-mining region that stretches over more than two decades. In this fragile and toxic environment, men mine for gold in decaying tunnels kilometers beneath the surface of the earth, and women grind stone by hand to extract the precious metal. The Zama Zama Project is intended to document their predicament, while providing an opportunity for audiences to encounter life in these remnants of the gold-mining world and to hear from and engage those who live in it.

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Susan Meiselas is a photographer and curator who works collaboratively on collective projects with diverse communities. Meiselas received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MA in visual education from Harvard University. She joined Magnum Photos in 1976 and has worked as a freelance photographer since then. She is best known for her coverage of the insurrection in Nicaragua and her extensive documentation of human rights issues in Latin America.

Meiselas has had one-woman exhibitions in Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, London, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York, and her work is included in collections around the world. She has served as President of the Magnum Foundation since its founding in 2007. Mediations, a survey exhibition of her work from the 1970s to present was recently exhibited at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Jeu de Paume, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Rosalind Morris is an award-winning anthropologist, cultural critic, filmmaker and media theorist, who has taught at Columbia University, where she is Professor of Anthropology, for 25 years. She has worked for more than two decades to document the transforming life-worlds around the gold mines of the Witwatersrand. She is the author of 7 books and more than 70 essays, and has been recognized with numerous awards.

Morris has spent more than two decades conducting research on the social lives of natural resource extraction. Over the past four years, she has been collaborating with Zama Zamas to produce a form of documentation that testifies to the lived reality of those who live in the shadow of the gold industry's deindustrialization, while exploring the limits of documentary method.

"There's always a return to ruins, only to the womb is there no return."

— Sol T. Plaatje