26 July 2018
About The Head & the Load
The Head & the Load, an ambitious new work from William Kentridge with music composed and conceived by Philip Miller, received its world premiere in Tate Modern’s iconic Turbine Hall from 11–15 July 2018. The performance is part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War Centenary, and tells the largely untold story of the role of African porters and carriers during that war. The work is co-commissioned with New York’s Park Avenue Armory, Ruhrtriennale, MASS MoCA with additional support from Holland Festival.
The Head & the Load sees Kentridge work with his long-time collaborator Philip Miller, one of South Africa’s leading composers, musical director Thuthuka Sibisi and choreographer and main 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, many of whom come from South Africa, with Miller’s score performed live by New York-based chamber orchestra The Knights.
Taking its title from a Tswana proverb, ‘the head and the load are the troubles of the neck’, this epic theatrical-music piece will tell the neglected story of the hundreds of thousands of African porters and carriers who served British, French and German forces during the First World War. It draws on every aspect of Kentridge’s practice to combine music, dance, projections, mechanised sculptures and shadow play.
William Kentridge is an internationally acclaimed South African artist, renowned for the evocative power of his work, which has thrilled audiences around the globe. His exhibitions and large-scale, staged performances delve into the history of colonialism in Africa and the aspirations and failures of revolutionary politics, while engaging a wide-range of visual and aural references – from European high modernism, to African traditional and contemporary music and dance. His work has been shown and collected by museums all over the world.
The Head & the Load is co-commissioned by 14–18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Commissions, Park Avenue Armory, Ruhrtriennale and MASS MoCA with additional support from Holland Festival.
Produced by THE OFFICE performing arts + film in association with Quaternaire.World premiere in London at Tate Modern with support from the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. 14–18 NOW is supported by the National Lottery through Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, and by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.