Modern Ruins – Kolmanskop

1. Kolmanskop – A Diamond Ghost Town in Namibia

With diamonds the German colonized town Coleman’s Hill in Namibia became the richest town of Africa in the beginning of the 20th century. The pioneers and diamond hunters are long gone today and the former boomtown has become a ghost town. Slowly the desert returns with its fascinating flora and fauna of the succulent Karoo, the most species-rich desert of the world. The picturesque houses disappear in the sand, nature slowly erases the traces of civilization and attracts new adventurers: Photographers, tourists and resourceful tour operators.

Projekte


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Modern Ruins – Kolmanskop

1. Kolmanskop – A Diamond Ghost Town in Namibia

In the year 1908 the black worker of the German Reichsbahn, Zacharias Lewala, found a twinkling stone when repairing the tracks and took it to his boss August Stauch. This chance find pulled the trigger for an unprecedented diamond rush in one of the most inhospitable regions of Africa. It attracted hundreds of adventurers, entrepreneurs and workers and with Coleman’s Hill a modern, small German town developed out of nothing with a post office, a hospital, police station, swimming pool, casino, theater and a bowling alley. The Germans engraved the culture in this area. The bowling club „Gut Holz“ (good wood), gymnastics festivals and folklore dance dominated the leisure time. Women wore fancy silk tights and the men wore chokers. And the little German Reichsbahn officer August Stauch became the diamond king of the empire. Because of him Coleman’s Hill became a town of the superlative virtually over-night: It was presumed as the richest town of Africa calculated by the per capita income. 20% of the worldwide diamonds were produced and possessed there and financed one of the most modern hospitals of the region with the first X-ray apparatus on the continent.

But the rapid boom was followed by a creeping decline. With the shrinking diamond sources the glamour of the bizarre German town in the middle of the desert faded. In the year 1954 the hospital noted the discharge of the last patient, two years later the last families left Coleman’s Hill and the formerly wealthy town turned into a ghost town. In the meantime the desert has taken back big parts of the town. But most of the colorful houses are still furnished, the bowling alley where once German officers enjoyed their prosperity has a spooky charm with its abandonment, while the former swimming pool is already completely filled up with sand.

But since a few years new life is awaking in the ghost town. For decades the diamond–restricted area wasn’t open to public. In the year 2008 the region around Kolmanskuppe has been declared a nature reserve and is now accessible for visitors. The almost untouched succulent-desert Karoo is considered the species-richest desert of the world with more than 1.700 leaf- and trunk-succulents. One example for the inventiveness of nature are the “living stones” (Lithops), which have water-storing leafs that hardly stick out of the ground and are camouflaged as stones – a perfect protection against sand storms and being eaten by animals. Besides the succulents and the extraordinary stones the Karoo houses about 80 vertebrate-species. Typical wild animals are antelopes, springboks, ostriches, jackals and brown hyenas. Not far from Kolmanskuppe wild horses can be watched, which have been released their just in 1915. The fauna in the Karoo desert has not been completely explored yet because of its isolation. Still 20 animal species have been discovered in this region in the last years. The national park with its bizarre attraction Kolmanskuppe nowadays attracts tourists, zoologists and adventurers, photographers from all over the world coming to explore the spooky place with its untouched nature. So the decline of a modern ruin creates new perspectives for the people, who partly experienced the rise and fall of the diamond town by themselves.

The Protagonists

 

Otto Goerke, whose grandfather has worked in the Casino of Kolmaskuppe in the 40ies of the last century, organizes day trips for tourists, the so-called “Ghost Twon Tours”. He is involved in the preservation of the abandoned town, which is more and more being swallowed by sand dunes.

Obie Fraser is a photographer, who has come from the far Cape Town to Kolmanskuppe in search of caducity. By now he sells “Photo Permits” to solvent hobby photographers, who are allowed to enter the ghost town during sunrise to capture the atmosphere of the modern ruin covered in special lighting conditions.

Manni Asheeke has followed the call of the wilderness, which slowly recaptures Kolmanskuppe. About one year ago he has settled down in Lüderitz, where he works in the administration of the nature park and step by step records the flora and fauna scientifically. He is going to introduce us to the exceptional environment in and around Kolmanskuppe and present this unique region from the perspective of the nature to us.

Director: Reinhild Dettmer-Finke
Cinematography: Sven Kiesche
Editor: Johannes Hiroshi Nakajima
Sound design: Woitek Majewski
Composers: Eike Hosenfeld, Moritz Denis, Tim Stanzel
Graphic design: Susanne Radelhof
Line producer: Kathrin Isberner, Susanne Heinz
Production manager: Sarah Maret, Nick Pastucha
Executive Producer: Anahita Nazemi
Producer: Christian Beetz
Commissioning editor ZDF/arte: Marita Hübinger, Caroline Auret

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