1936-1937 Empire Exhibition, Johannesburg, South Africa







The Empire Exhibition was held at Milner Park which is now the University of the Witwatersrand West Campus. The fair opened in September 1936 and ran through January 1937. The Empire Exposition was similar in scope to the 1924 exhibition held at Wembley, London. Like earlier world's fairs, it portrayed a utopian world allegedly free from political, racial, and class tensions. This seems surreal at an imperial fair that celebrated the economic and political dominance of Britain’s white minority over its colonies and protectorates. The purpose of the exhibition was to highlight the progress made by the British Empire over the previous 50 years. There was a range of shared enthusiasm across racial and cultural divides for the exposition, even amidst the segregation and dominance that surrounded the fair. Over two million people attended the Empire Exhibition.

What remains of the Tower of Light on the Witwatersrand West Campus can be seen in these color photos. The black and white photos, taken in 1936, show not only the Tower of Light and parts of the fair, but mining tailings in the background.

The Cape House style of architecture can still be seen in the two pictures of the Wits Club Alumni House and compared to the photo from 1936.

A small grassy area that was part of Milner Park, where some locals sort recyclables, exists between the campus and the hospital. The yellow spheres lead away from the park towards the hospital.

Blogger, Marc Latilla has more indepth information about the 1936 Empire Exposition.