Monday, November 14, 2022

William Kentridge

 Annamaria on Monday

I am reporting here on a marvelous exhibition at the Royal Academy of Art in London.

I dedicate this post to Michael and Stanley, pretty sure that they share my admiration for their landsman, William Kentridge. The picture above shows the title of a puppet show that was part of what was on view.  I am putting it first because of the title:  WELT DETEKTIV! And of course, any linking of Africa and the word "detective" brings Kubu to mind.

What a stroke of luck it was that we happened to be in town while the exhibition was on and that we heard about it from a friend.  My take: it would have been worth it to fly to London from New York just to see this exhibition and to learn more about William Kentridge.

Born in Johannesburg in 1955, Kentridge, at a very young age, exhibited such promise as an artist that now there is a catalogue raisonne' devoted exclusively to his juvenilia - a rare honor! He comes from a well-to-do family - both of his parents were lawyers, but he believes his Jewish background gave him a particular point of view when it came to South Africa under apartheid. His formal studies were in Politics and African Studies at the University of Witwatersrand and a diploma in fine arts from the Johannesburg Art Foundation.  He then he went on to study theater and mime at L'Ecole Internationale de Theatre Jacques Lecoq in Paris.  An eclectic education to say the least, but when you add all of that together in a man who has the soul of an artist, it is likely to produce something completely new. And it did!

His works include prints, drawings, film, art direction of films and television, and sets for productions of operas.  He also cooperates with other artists and puppeteers. I found the puppet show Welt Detektiv one of the most entrancing things in the show.

His images are visually arresting; the statements they make are profound.  Here are some of the many that struck my fancy. 

I took this one for Michael, because they look
like mathematicians. 

Commentators say that, like Goya's, Kentridge's work is sometimes not easily understood by those unaware the political background.  I was fortunate to view the exhibit with my life-long friend Rosemary, who has visited South Africa many times, both during and after apartheid.

If all of this seems terribly serious, don't be put off.  Kentridge has a wicked sense of humor.  The show included a hilarious film in which he plays both himself as the artist and an interviewer, asking him questions - those unanswerable questions artists get about their process.  I laughed outloud when the "interviewer" asked, "Do you start from the top and work your way down?"

L. WK, the Artist.  R.WK satirizing an interviewer

To me the most wonderful works were the animated films, which he makes from hand-drawn sketches, which he photographs and then alters little by little, photographing each iteration. It's hard to picture the process until you see the finished product. Here is an example from Youtube:

There were many things I wish I could have taken home, like this accordion-folded work, or any of the little statues of the same images painted on the pages in the foreground. 


Look here to see the Royal Academy's webpage about the exhibit.  I only wish I could see it all again.


  1. Kentridge is indeed an iconic artist in South Africa and beyond. Thanks for telling us about the exhibition!

  2. Here’s a thank you note, Michael. I found that interview of Kentridge by Kentridge on YouTube. You can find it here: It’s brilliant and hilarious! AA