The Head & the Load, a new work conceived and directed by William Kentridge with music by Philip Miller, will receive 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 commemorates the millions of African porters and carriers who served during the conflict. The work is co-commissioned with New York’s Park Avenue Armory and Ruhrtriennale, with additional support from Holland Festival.


The Head & the Load sees Kentridge work with his longtime collaborator Philip Miller, one of South Africa’s leading composers, 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 Ghanaian proverb, ‘the head and the load are the troubles of the neck’, this epic theatrical-music piece will tell the neglected story of the millions of African porters and carriers who served British, French and German forces during the First World War. This will be Kentridge’s most ambitious project to date, and draws on every aspect of his practice to combine music, dance, film 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. Operating on a grand scale his work has been shown and collected by museums all over the world.


William Kentridge said:

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


Frances Morris, Director of Tate Modern, said:

“Tate Modern is committed to telling relevant and complex global stories across all art forms and we are privileged to be premiering this poignant new performance devised by William Kentridge. The Head & the Load will bring long overdue attention to the African contribution in the First World War, recognising the weight of a history made heavier by its invisibility.”


Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said:

“14-18 NOW commissions artists to create new work inspired by the First World War. We are delighted to co-commission William Kentridge to create this new performance work, a powerful monument to the huge sacrifice made by millions of Africans during the First World War.”


Visitors to Tate Modern will also be able to view works by Kentridge across both its free collection displays, and cinema programme. Opening in July, a dedicated display in the gallery’s Artist & Society wing will showcase the animated short film Ubu Tells the Truth 1997. The work combines images from documentary films and photographs together with moving puppets and animated drawings, to express stories of human rights violations during the apartheid era. To accompany the display, a selection of short animated films by Kentridge will be screened in the gallery’s Starr Cinema on 4 July. Curated by the artist himself, they will take visitors on a journey through five decades of Kentridge’s filmmaking practice.


An in conversation event with the artist discussing The Head & the Load will take place at Tate Modern on 14 July.


Listings information:

The Head & the Load by William Kentridge

11 – 15 July 2018, Tate Modern


Performance times vary, please check website for details

Tickets available at tate.org.uk

Running time: approximately one hour


William Kentridge in Conversation

14 July 2018, Starr Cinema, Tate Modern

13.00 – 14.30


Further information here: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/performance/head-load/william-kentridge-conversation


William Kentridge: Shadow Processions

4 July 2018, Starr Cinema, Tate Modern

18.30 – 20.00


Further information here: http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/performance/head-load/william-kentridge-shadow-processions


Creative team:

William Kentridge, Concept & Director
Phillip Miller, Composer

Gregory Maqoma, Choreographer
Thuthuka Sibisi, Composer and Music Director
Catherine Meyburgh, Janus Fouché and Žana Marović, Video Designers
Greta Goiris, Costume Designer
Sabine Theunissen, Set Designer
Urs Schönebaum, Lighting Designer
Luc De Wit, Assistant Director
Mark Grey, Sound Designer


Performed and created by:

Mike Atkinson, Ayanda Eleki, Julia Zenzie Burnham, Mhlaba Buthelezi, Thulani Chauke, Luc De Wit, Hamilton Dlamini, Xolani Dlamini, Joanna Dudley, Lungile Halam, Colin Jacobsen, Eric Jacobsen, N’faly Kouyate, Grace Magubane, Nhlanhla Mahlangu, Tlale Makhene, Ncokwane Lydia Manyama, Gregory Maqoma, Ann Masina, Tshegofatso Moeng, Mapule Moloi, Bham Ntabeni, Vincenzo Pasquariello, Mncedisi Shabangu, Sipho Seroto, Lindokuhle Thabede, and The Knights.


The Head & the Load is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Commissions, Park Avenue Armory, and Ruhrtrienneale, with additional support from Holland Festival.


World premiere at Tate Modern in London, produced by THE OFFICE performing arts + film in association with Quarternairne.


The Head & the Load acknowledges the kind assistance of Marian Goodman Gallery, Goodman Gallery and Lia Rumma Gallery in this project.


14-18 NOW

14-18 NOW is a programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations. It commissions new work by leading contemporary artists across all art forms; the programme has included over 300 artists from 35 countries, with commissions taking place in 160 locations across the UK. Over 30 million people have experienced a project so far, including 7.5 million children and young people. 16.7million people took part in LIGHTS OUT in 2014, and 63% of the population were aware of Jeremy Deller’s 2016 work ‘We’re here because we’re here’. The UK tour of the iconic poppy sculptures by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper have been seen by over 3.5 million people to date.  14-18 NOW has won many awards for its work, including the National Lottery Heritage Award 2017, a Museums Heritage Award and the Chairman’s Award at The Drum Social Buzz Awards 2016.  It is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and by additional fundraising.



Tate Modern is the world’s most popular museum of modern and contemporary art. Located in the former Bankside Power Station by the river Thames, it opened to the public in May 2000 and attracts around 5 million visitors each year. In June 2016, a new rehung and expanded Tate Modern opened to the public, presenting an even more diverse and international perspective on modern art. It is one of four Tate galleries around the country, and part of a wider network of partner institutions – the Plus Tate network – which champion the visual arts in the UK. Tate manages a growing national collection of over 70,000 works of art, acquired and cared for on behalf of the public and shown in venues throughout the UK and across the world.



The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) helps to drive growth, enrich lives and promote Britain abroad. We protect and promote our cultural and artistic heritage and help businesses and communities to grow by investing in innovation and highlighting Britain as a fantastic place to visit. We help to give the UK a unique advantage on the global stage, striving for economic success.



Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife.


Since 2010, HLF has invested more than £93million to more than 1,850 First World War centenary projects including: The Imperial War Museum’s First World War Galleries; HMS Caroline in Belfast; London Transport Museum’s B-type Battle Bus; and the Yorkshire Film Archive.  We have also invested in over 1,400 community projects exploring the impact of the conflict through our First World War: then and now programme.

www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery #UnderstandingWW1



Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2015 and 2018, we will invest £1.1 billion of public money from government and an estimated £700 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk


The Head & the Load by William Kentridge is at Tate Modern from 11 – 15 July as part of 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Commissions.