The Head & The Load
Tate Modern 11 - 15 July 2018
The world premiere of this new work was met with great critical acclaim. William Kentridge’s project combines music, dance, film projections, mechanised sculptures and shadow play to create a live-play collage on an operatic scale. It tells the story of the hundreds of thousands of African porters and carriers who served in British, French and German forces during the First World War.
The performance consists of a number of “processions” or parades, broken up with dances, declarations and singing. The people in the processions carry heavy “loads” representing the African porters who carried equipment over vast distances during the war. These loads are sculptures of strange and uncanny forms. They cast intricate shadows on the backdrop which overlap with film projections (design by Catherine Meyburgh, Janus Fouché and Žana Marović) of the shadows and of the processions on the stage: all multiplied and echoed.
Kentridge has also layered voices (composed by Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi). Women singing like strange aquatic beasts, and then with sublime lyrical beauty, intersect shouting, calls, conversations. There are also words in multiple languages, European and African,with subtitles projected onto pages from colonial account books (uncomfortable reading) alongside drawings of mosquitos and snatches of old film picturing the porters.
Kentridge is again using his ideas of the polyphonous voice, “different ideas knocking into each other, overtaking, we have to find a voice for polyphony, many voices, for different solutions…” which sits at the heart of many of his works, questioning who we chose to listen to and which voices can be heard.