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“The Head & The Load” Comes to Africa

Johannesburg Theater welcomes a performance about Africans in the First World War
April 20, 2023
1:36 pm
The Head & The Load_23_photo credit Stella Olivier

For the first time since it opened at the Tate Modern in London in 2018, William Kentridge’s internationally acclaimed production, “The Head & The Load” will be staged on African soil from 21 April to 6 May 2023 at the Joburg Theatre.


Postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic and prolonged lockdowns, the production travelled from London to New York, Amsterdam, and Germany, where shows were sold out, before its arrival in Johannesburg, Kentridge’s hometown.


According to Kentridge, “’The Head & the Load’ is about Africa and Africans in the First World War. About all the contradictions and paradoxes of colonialism that were heated and compressed by the circumstances of the war. It is about historical incomprehension (and inaudibility and invisibility). The colonial logic towards the Black participants could be summed up: ‘Lest their actions merit recognition, their deeds must not be recorded.’ The Head & the Load aims to recognise and record.”


The music for “The Head and The Load” was conceived and composed by Philip Miller with Thuthuka Sibisi and is peformed by an ensemble of singers and musicians from South Africa, Guinea, the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy. The majority of the 38-member cast are from South Africa and include actors Hamilton Dlamini, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Dambuza Nqumashe and Luc De Wit, with vocalists Ann Masina and Joanna Dudley.


The work is textured and multi-faceted, incorporating music, text, dance, film projections, mechanised sculptures, and shadow play.


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