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William Kentridge and Faustin Linyekula are associate artists at this year’s Holland Festival. The colonial past of their countries plays a distinct role in their work. Both work closely with talented artists in their home cities; Kentridge at The Centre for the Less Good Idea in Johannesburg, Linyekula at Studios Kabako in Kisangani. They will discuss their work in this conversation, about making art in Africa and Europe, and the paradoxes of living and working in a postcolonial society.
William Kentridge (South Africa, 1955) is internationally acclaimed for his drawings, films, theatre and opera productions. His practice is born out of a cross-fertilisation between mediums and genres.
His work responds to the legacies of colonialism and apartheid, within the context of South Africa's socio-political landscape. His aesthetics are drawn from the medium of film’s own history, from stop-motion animation to early special effects. Kentridge’s drawing, specifically the dynamism of an erased and redrawn mark, is an integral part of his expanded animation and filmmaking practice, in which the meanings of his films are developed during the process of their making. His practice also incorporates his theatre training. Kentridge’s work has been seen in museums and galleries around the world since the 1990s, including Documenta in Kassel, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Musée du Louvre in Paris, Whitechapel Gallery in London, Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen and the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid. Opera productions include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Shostakovich’s The Nose, and Alban Berg’s Lulu, and have been seen at opera houses including the Metropolitan Opera (New York), La Scala (Milan), English National Opera (London), Opera de Lyon, De Nationale Opera (Amsterdam), and others. Summer 2017 saw the premiere of Kentridge’s production of Berg’s Wozzeck for the Salzburg Festival. The 5-channel video and sound installation The Refusal of Time was made for Documenta (13) in 2012; since then it has been seen in cities around the world. More Sweetly Play the Dance, an 8-channel video projection shown first in Eye Amsterdam in April 2015, and Notes Toward a Model Opera, a three-screen projection looking at the Chinese Cultural Revolution, made for an exhibition in Beijing in 2015; both have been presented in many other cities since. Kentridge’s ambitious yet ephemeral public art project for Rome Triumphs & Laments (a 500 m frieze of figure power-washed from pollution and bacterial growth on the walls of the Tiber River) opened in April 2016 with a performance of live music composed by Philip Miller and a procession of shadow figures. William Kentridge featured at the Holland Festival in 2010 with Telegrams from the Nose, in 2012 with Refuse the Hour and in 2014 with Winterreise. In 2015, he staged Alban Berg's Lulu with De Nationale Opera (Amsterdam). Kentridge is one of the Holland Festival’s two associate artists this year.
Faustin Linyekula (Congo, 1974) is a Congolese dancer, choreographer, theatre maker and storyteller. In his work he addresses the legacy of decades of war, terror, fear and the collapse of the economy in Africa. After studying literature and drama Linyekula left Congo in 1993, at the time still called Zaïre, and settled in Nairobi, Kenya. There, he cofounded the first Kenyan company for contemporary dance, Gàara, in 1997. In 2001 he returned to Zaïre, by now the Democratic Republic of Congo. In spite of the bloody conflict ravaging the country, he decided to stay and founded in Kinshasa the Studios Kabako, a creation and research space for performing art.
Together with four dancers who were trained by him, he created Spectacularly Empty, an account of his return to his native country. It was the first in a series of works in which Linyekula reflected on the history and the collective memory of his country and its people, the corruption of its leaders, their censorship and their lack of vision for the future. Two of these pieces, Le Festival des Mensonges (2005) and The Dialogues Series: iii. Dinozord (2006), were invited to the Festival d'Avignon in 2007, the first time such an invitation was extended to a Sub-Saharan African artist. In 2012, he made a sequel, Sur les traces de Dinozord, which will be shown at the Holland Festival this year with a brand new cast of young talents.
In 2006, the Studios Kabako moved to Kisangani in the North-East of the country and opened up to new artistic fields, including music and film. Alongside, indeed, fostering the work of younger Congolese artists, from training to production and touring, the Studios Kabako are also working with communities of the Lubunga district on the South Bank of the Congo river, around culture, education and drinking water issue. In total, Linyekula created 17 pieces with his Studios Kabako, which toured around the world, including more more more… future, a punk/ndombolo opera. Other collaborations include a duet with Raimund Hoghe (Sans-titre, 2009), a solo for the National Ballet of Portugal (2016) and a series of in-situ performances for museums, including the MOMA in 2012, the MUCEM in Marseille in 2016, the NYC Metropolitan Museum in 2017 and in 2018 the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren. Passionate about sound, Linyekula is also mixing music for albums and live concerts.
Linyekula received the Principal Prince Claus Award in 2007. The jury praised him ‘for his innovative activation of culture in the face of conflict, and for his energetic commitment to the development of his community.’ He came to the Holland Festival in 2012 with La creation du monde (1923-2012), a creation for the Ballet de Lorraine based in Nancy. In 2017 The New York Times wrote: ‘There’s no walking away from Mr. Linyekula ... painful, brutal, livewire intensity.’ In 2014, he and his Studios Kabako were awarded first prize by the CurryStone Foundation for their work in Kisangani. He regularly teaches in Africa, the United States and Europe. The full year of 2016, Linyekula was associate artist to the city of Lisbon as part of the Artista na Cidade Biennale.
Since September 2018 and for three years, he is associate artist to the Manège in Reims.
In 2018, he was recipient of the first Soros Arts Fellowship. Faustin Linyekula is one of the Holland Festival’s two associate artists this year.
- Quinsy Gario