13 July 2018

South Africa: The Head and the Load, William Kentridge's Epic Production On Imperial Indifference in WWI, Premieres in London

analysis

An astounding work by SA's premier artist William Kentridge pays homage to the hundreds of thousands of African soldiers who fought and died in World War I. The survivors - about two million served - returned to their countries with their service and humanity unacknowledged by their colonial overlords.

'Lest their actions merit recognition, their deeds must not be recorded.'

- An unnamed military figure involved in World War I.

It has taken the creative genius of South Africa's William Kentridge to bring into focus the terrible injustice and indifference meted out to some two million African soldiers embroiled in a war that had nothing to do with them.

The audience of some 500 attending the world premiere of The Head and the Load in the Tate Modern's cavernous Turbine Hall on 11 July were mesmerised by a kaleidoscopic cacophony of sound, music, silhouette and projected images, sculptures and excerpts from literature.

The performance was thrilling, bewildering, harrowing and, at times, absurd and even disorientating - rather like World War I itself.

"On the Western Front, African soldiers were frequently used as cannon fodder," said Tate director Frances Morris.

"In this new performance, we experience the story of the thousands...

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