William Kentridge

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William Kentridge (1955-) is an internationally acclaimed artist, set designer, actor, director, writer for stage and film.

A brilliant and innovative personality and artist who by the 1990s was generally acclaimed as South Africa’s premier graphic artist, he has also been a major influence on South African theatre and film.


Born 28 April 1955 in Johannesburg, he has a BA in Politics and African Studies (University of the Witwatersrand 1974-76), art training with Bill Ainslie at the Johannesburg Art Foundation (1976-78) and mime and theatre at the École Jacques le Coq in Paris (1981-82).

Active in film and theatre since mid-seventies, as writer, director, actor and set designer. Co-founder of Junction Avenue Theatre Company (with Malcolm Purkey (1975-1991) and of the Free Filmmakers Cooperative (1988).

In the 1980s, he worked on television films and series as art director.

In 1992 he began his celebrated collaboration as designer/director/theatre maker with the Handspring Puppet Company.

Married to Anne Stanwix, and the couple have three children.

Theatrical work

Work with Junction Avenue Theatre Company

For them he worked as actor, designer and/or director on plays such as The Fantastical History of a Useless Man (1976), Randlords and Rotgut (1977*), Security (1979), Will of a Rebel (1978/1979?), Ilanga Lizophumela Abasebenzi (1980), and the brilliantly successful Sophiatown (1988), for which he did the remarkable yet functional set designs.

He appeared as an actor in Tom Stoppard’s Travesties, directed by Malcolm Purkey, with Nicholas Ellenbogen and Vanessa Cooke at Upstairs at the Market in 1978.

Work with the Handspring Puppet Company

In 1992 his celebrated collaboration as designer/director with the Handspring Puppet Company began, leading to Woyzeck on the Highveld (1992), Faustus in Africa (1995), Ubu and the Truth Commission (text by Jane Taylor, 1997), the opera Il Ritorno d’Ulisse ("The Return of Ullyses"), which premiéred at the celebrated Kusten Festival des Artes in Brussels in 1998, and Confessions of Zeno (Spier Amphitheatre, 2002).

As visual artist

He is internationally acclaimed for his compelling work that meshes the personal and political influences on his life in South Africa during and after apartheid. The oeuvre for which he has become best known evolved in the 1980s, namely his innovative fusion of charcoal drawing, animation, film and theatre, including the animation based on a succession of drawn, erased and redrawn charcoal images that he created for multi-media theatre pieces made with the Handspring Puppet Company, and his celebrated Nine Drawings for Projection film series.

His designs and artistic works have been widely recognised, through museums and exhibitions in all the major cities, including New York (two solo exhibitions in the MoMA, 2001 and a major retrospective in 2010), Melbourne, Amsterdam, Kassel (DOCUMENTA 13), Málaga and Rio de Janeiro. The puppets used for Faustus in Africa and later plays (designed by Kentridge and made by Adrian Kohler and company) have are housed in a museum in Berlin.

As film maker and multi-media artist

Besides numerous his ultra-short video art/ animation projects (including Felix in Exile in 1994 and Zeno Writing in 2002), his longer films include Howl at the Moon (1981), Salestalk (1984), Freedom Square and Back of the Moon (1988).

Johannesburg, Second Greatest city in the World after Paris, monument, Sobriety, Obesity and Growing Old, Mine, Felix in Exile, & The History of the Main Complaint. 1994 Another Country (music video). Drawing Lesson 47 (2010). More Sweetly Play the Dance (2017) for the opening of the Zeits in Cape Town. The Head & the Load (2018) was performed in London to great acclaim.


Received an Honorary Doctor of Literature from the University of the Witwatersrand (2004) and was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world for 2009. He has received numerous awards over the years, including the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy in 2010, and was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011. In 2012 he delivered the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University.


Tucker, 1997

Die Burger, 31 August 2019.

"William Kentridge" in Wikipedia[1]

"Artistic masters at Baxter" in Artslink[2] March 29, 2013.

​​Play in Joburg: Joburg is where creativity flows, says Kentridge, City of Johannesburg website [3]

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