Rainbow Reflections


"The depiction of my birthplace runs through all my work, and I do not like to portray it as the militant or oppressive place that it was for the blacks. But it does not emphasise the picturesque state of living that white people enjoyed during apartheid either. Instead, I try to represent a city in which the duality of man is exposed," says the 58-year-old artist, whose exhibit Five Themes was included in the 2009 issue of Time 100.

The video is based on an opera by Dmitri Shostakovich, titled The Nose (which, in turn, is based on Nikolai Gogol's short story by the same name) where a man wakes up to find his nose missing. It shows influences of Kentridge's years in mime and theatre. "I have come to understand the fluid motion of characters in theatre. It helps me create animation drawings with that much more accuracy and finesse," he says.

There are also two unique sculptures titled World on its Hind Legs and Sculpture for Return where a new coherent image appears every time it is viewed from a different angle. Like everything in Kentridge's art, this too, can perhaps draw poetic justifications from his own past where, by virtue of being of European descent, he got a ringside view of the apartheid-struck South Africa. His perspectives, as a result, have shaped up to be distant, but never lost their touch of poignancy. "My parents were lawyers, famous for their defence of victims of the apartheid, giving me the ability to remove myself somewhat from the atrocities there. The cultural boycott of South Africa made it easier for me to find my way as an artist, since I could work quietly on my own," he says.

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