The Head & the Load

“Today’s art world is powerfully drawn to Kentridge because he’s mastered one of our period’s greatest challenges: how to create an art of cultural authority, one that takes the moral measure of our time.”
New York Magazine

William Kentridge is a remarkably versatile artist whose evocative vision combines the political with the poetic through artistic media as diverse as printmaking, drawing, painting, sculpting, and filmmaking. Dealing with subjects as sobering as apartheid, colonialism, and totalitarianism, his highly personal work is often imbued with lyrical undertones in his critical examination of aspects of his native South African society and the aftermath of apartheid.

The renowned artist synthesizes elements of his practice to conjure his grandest and most ambitious production to date, commissioned by the Armory. Kentridge works alongside long-time collaborator, Philip Miller—one of South Africa’s leading composers—whose powerful and evocative compositions offer a perfect complement to Kentridge’s feverishly imaginative work.

A play on the Ghanaian proverb, “the head and the load are the troubles of the neck,” the large-scale work expressively speaks to the nearly two million African porters and carriers used by the British, French, and Germans who bore the brunt of the casualties during the First World War in Africa and the historical significance of this story as yet left largely untold. This processional musical journey—as much an installation as a performance piece—melds performances by orchestra collective The Knights, and an international ensemble cast of singers, dancers, and performers accompanied by a chorus of mechanized gramophones alongside multiple film projections and shadow play to create a landscape of immense proportion and imagination that utilizes the vast sweep of the Wade Thompson Drill to upend standard notions of scale.


Artist Talk: The Head & the Load
Thursday, December 6 at 6:30pm

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Artist William Kentridge and his fellow collaborators Philip Miller and Thuthuka Sibisi discuss the political context of their latest work and the process behind mounting it in an unconventional space with Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford, Director of the Smithsonian, National Museum of African Art.

North American Premiere
Commissioned by Park Avenue Armory and 14—18 NOW, the UK’s arts program for the First World War Centenary, Ruhrtriennale With additional commissioning funds provided by the Holland Festival and with the kind assistance of Marian Goodman Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Lia Rumma. Developed at MASS MoCA, North Adams, 2018.


Concept and Director William Kentridge
Composer Philip Miller
Co-composer / Music Director Thuthuka Sibisi
Projection Design Catherine Meyburgh
Choreography Gregory Maqoma
Costume Design Greta Goiris
Set Design Sabine Theunissen
Lighting Design Urs Schönebaum
Sound Design Mark Grey
Video Editing and Compositing Janus Fouché / Žana Marović / Catherine Meyburgh
Associate Director Luc De Wit
Studio Technical Director Chris Waldo de Wet
Video Orchestrator Kim Gunning
Cinematography Duško Marović
Orchestration Michael Atkinson/Philip Miller


ACTORS: Mncedisi Shabangu, Hamilton Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Luc De Wit

FEATURED VOCALISTS & PERFORMERS: Joanna Dudley, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Ann Masina, Bham Ntabeni, Sipho Seroto, N`Faly Kouyate (kora), Mario Gotoh (viola, The Knights), Tlale Makhene (percussion) and Vincenzo Pasquariello (piano)

DANCERS: Gregory Maqoma, Julia Zenzie Burnham, Thulani Chauke, Xolani Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu

ENSEMBLE VOCALISTS: Mhlaba Buthelezi, Ayanda Eleki, Grace Magubane, Ncokwane Lydia Manyama, Tshegofatso Moeng, Mapule Moloi, Lindokuhle Thabede, Motho Oa Batho

With chamber orchestra THE KNIGHTS

For more information, visit

The Head & the Load is supported in part by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros, Daniel Clay Houghton, Sarah Billinghurst and the Howard and Sarah Solomon Foundation, Betsy and Edward Cohen, Art Dealers Association of America, and the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts. The production is also supported in part by public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the city council.

Image: Photo by Stella Olivier

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December 4–15, 2018

Tuesday–Friday at 8:00pm
Saturday at 2:00pm & 8:00pm
Sunday at 2:00pm & 7:00pm

Tickets start at $40

Wade Thompson Drill Hall

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Running time is approximately 1 hour and 25 minutes with no intermission.

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