As I was on my way to Africa to join the crew making Sharing the Rough, I had some thoughts about making a trip to Africa that was focused on the gem mining trade. I’ll be posting more about what I’ve actually experienced while here, but here are some of the reasons I wanted to make this trip.
Mines are essentially holes in the ground. Fissures in the dirt, yawning up some treasures for the determined. Mining can be as simple as a pick axe and shovel and some muscle exertion. Or it can be highly mechanized and sophisticated. I don’t expect to find the latter where we are going.
The landscape interests me. The very foreign-ness of it, with animals never seen in the United States, outside of a zoo. Yet there is something curiously familiar in the plains, the trees, the mountains and hills. As if we have all come from this place and there is a collective memory buried somewhere very, very deep.
And certainly the gems are something I am vividly curious about. Beneath the granular, opaque exterior and angular outlines, there is a hint, a glimmer of potential from a certain angle, a particular turn of the wrist. A promise.
And of course, the thrill of the hunt. Dust in the air as we bump over unspeakably rough roads towards mines that are hours from a significant village. Will this particular hole in the ground yield The One?
I must confess that the most interesting part of this trip for me is the people of this story. Who are the believers, the eternally optimistic souls that hop into the crevices and dig? And the mine owners who manage and motivate their employees to keep working the vein until they find something?
Beyond that, there needs to be knowledge. When a buyer goes directly to the mine or to the table of a gem dealer’s office, how do you separate the valuable from the worthless?
Who is this community of people who find the world’s most beautiful gems? What are their relationships, their allegiances, their empathies, their bonds and links and connections?