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Kentridge exhibition opens in Cape Town

30 August 2019

The largest ever survey exhibition by internationally acclaimed artist William Kentridge opened in Cape Town in August.

This major exhibition is hosted simultaneously in two parts by the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), which hosts his multi-media works; and at Norval Foundation, which presents his sculptural works.

Why Should I Hesitate: Putting Drawings to Work, hosted at Zeitz MOCAA, shows a large oeuvre of Kentridge’s 40-year career, showing works including charcoal drawings, woodcut prints, stop-frame animation, tapestries, installation and video. In addition, the exhibition pays particular attention to the role of studio practice in Kentridge’s career.

“When conceptualising this exhibition, we wanted to do more than simply attempt to condense many of Kentridge’s projects from his illustrious career into one space. It was vital to unpack Kentridge and reveal more of his processes and how two-dimensional forms assume life. We also wanted to offer a sort of ‘backstage’ view of the artist on his journeys and his experimentations, and sometimes at his most uncertain and vulnerable,” explains Azu Nwagbogu, curator of the exhibition.

The exhibition title, ‘Why Should I Hesitate’, is taken from the artist’s recent opera, ‘The Head and the Load’ (2018), which explores some of the paradoxes of Africa’s involvement in the First World War.

This question was first posed by an African soldier who had a difficult choice: accept conscription – leaving behind the security of his home, to risk his life in a war of which he had little knowledge – or reject conscription and face certain persecution.

Read in the context of Kentridge’s studio practice, Why Should I Hesitate is, therefore, a question that stresses the importance of process over procedure or product. It is an attempt to draw out the artist’s work from the uncertainties of legend, so it can be understood within the context of our ever-changing cultural climate: an exercise that resists inertia but is necessarily framed by doubt.

“While Kentridge remains dedicated to a South African narrative, his projects pose humanist questions of other such similar historical failures and other utopic possibilities for success. In this way, the exhibition may be viewed as a historiographic reading of the world over the last century,” adds Tammy Langtry, curator of the exhibition.

Due to the breadth of the artist’s creative practice, the exhibition spans five independent spaces throughout Zeitz MOCAA – Level 3, Level 1, Centre for the Moving Image, BMW Atrium, and a nighttime projection in the Track Shed.

The exhibition at Zeitz MOCAA opens on 25 August 2019 and runs through to March 2020.

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