The Head & the Load

Performance Theatre

William Kentridge’s exploration of Africa’s role in the First World War combines music, dance, film projections, mechanized sculptures and shadow play to illuminate the untold story of the millions of African porters and carriers who served—and in many cases died for— British, French and German battlefield forces. Freighted with the weight of this little-examined history and quickened by Kentridge’s visionary theatrical alchemy, The Head & the Load is an exceptionally ambitious work of performance.

A play on the Ghanaian proverb, “the head and the load are the troubles of the neck,” the large-scale work speaks to the experience of 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. The historical significance of their crucial role in the conflict has remained largely unexamined for a century.

The Head & the Load sees Kentridge work with his longtime collaborator Philip Miller, one of South Africa’s leading composers along with Thuthuka Sibisi co- composer/music director and choreographer and principle dancer Gregory Maqoma to create what the artist describes as “an interrupted musical procession”. This rich and multi-layered performance features an international cast of singers, dancers, and performers, a majority directly from South Africa. Miller’s score is performed by the ever-adventurous New York-based chamber orchestra, The Knights who are joined by musicians from Italy, South Africa and Guinea. Miller’s powerful and evocative compositions offer a perfect complement to Kentridge’s imaginative work.


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  • 2019-05-29 00:00:00 2019-05-31 00:00:00 - Holland Festival, Amsterdam - Holland
  • 2018-12-04 00:00:00 2018-12-15 00:00:00 - Park Avenue Armory , New York - USA
  • 2018-08-09 00:00:00 2018-09-12 00:00:00 - Ruhrtriennale, Bochum - Germany
  • 2018-07-11 00:00:00 2018-07-15 00:00:00 - TATE MODERN, London - UK