The zama zamas eyed my racially diverse group suspiciously. They were engaged in an illegal and surprisingly organized mining operation on the border of Johannesburg and Soweto in a gold mine that was abandoned for all intents and purposes. In the picture, an unofficial zama zama supervisor proffers a piece of recently mined gold ore for viewing.
Zama seems to be one of those words that slips between languages, especially in South Africa, where the country's 11 official languages sometimes merge into a distinct South African slang. In Zulu, the word means try, and the miners -- at least the ones I met the day I took this picture -- were proud of their title: "We try! We try!"