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Jeannette Unite, or The Mining Artist as she is sometimes called, places three glass-stoppered bottles on a once-grand 19th-century dining room table now laden with a well-stocked tarnished silver drinks tray and piles of paper and books. There’s a whiff of the theatrical in the air of her studio. She nudges one bottle in my direction, makes eye contact and incants its name. This is repeated twice, with other bottles. There is something shamanic about the ritual, especially given that she is dressed in billowing black. The bottles contain blue-grey shards (Kimberlite volcanic rock), fine grey sand and little blue pellets (crushed diamond ore) from volcanic pipes in the Kimberley Big Hole. Unite points to the second one. "It could contain a diamond," she says with a challenging look. She’s had it for 14 years but hasn’t bothered to find out if there is a gem inside. This says something about her relationship to mining — she’s not interested in the spoils. Her first visit to a mine, t...

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