William Kentridge – The Head & The Load

This book is a record of the theater production The Head & the Load, made by a group of musicians, actors, dancers, writers, composers, and video editors with costume, set, and lighting designers. The project is a record of the inadequately known history of the African porters who were part of the First World War in Africa.

The book contains the libretto of the piece, images of performances, reflections on the process of making the piece, and expansions on themes that arise from the project. The production took as its principle the concept of history as collage, bringing different fragments together to find a provisional history. In the book we try to follow a similar process, allowing the reader to construct a sense of the production from the libretto, texts, and images.

The texts at the end contain historical detail and reflections on the project. It should be noted that these reflections and essays come after the completion of the work of making the piece. There is a wide chaos in the making; and we hope a lack of settling in the meanings of the piece.

This book project was undertaken by Xavier Barral, with whom I have worked with great pleasure in the past. On the morning we received the first layout of the book (substantially as it is now) we heard the shocking news of his sudden death. This book is one of many testaments to his work as a publisher and designer.

William Kentridge