William Kentridge

Born in Johannesburg in 1955, William Kentridge uses performance, collage and charcoal to discuss and challenge the problems of Apartheid.

Some art is political because it has to be.

William Kentridge is a Jewish South African artist born in Johannesburg, 1955. His parents were lawyers who defended victims of apartheid – a violent system of racial hierarchy in South Africa. While studying politics and African studies in the ‘70s, William became involved in student activism. Some of his first artworks were made for trade unions and protest posters. 

monochrome triptych created in charcoal of three cafe scenes

Koevoet (Dreams of Europe), triptych, 1984-85

Today, his work spans drawing, performance, film, theatre and opera – transforming his vision from medium to medium. While William pulls from the specific history of South Africa, the truth of the message resonates across the globe. 

His art represents a rupture – an attempt to uproot the foundations the world has been built on.

a charcoal boat drawn over a French empirical map

Adaptability, Compliance, Silence, 1999

Artist William Kentridge standing on a ladder and gesturing while holding a book

I am not me, the horse is not mine, performance at MOMA, 2010

a charcoal boat drawn over a French empirical map

Carte Hypsométrique de l’Empire Russe, 2022

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