William Kentridge: Apartheid in Bogota (Banco de la Republica, Barrio Candelaria)


One of the pleasures to visit Bogota, is the possibility of finding great artists that normally are not in the “blockbuster” path of the great galleries in London. Last week I went with Ana Maria to the exhibition of William Kentridge, a South African artist whose drawings in black and white create a whole universe of nightmares, desire, eroticism and death. This exhibition addresses difficult themes of violence, apartheid and desolated landscapes. The drawings are actually very draw representations of dreams and nightmares, emerging from the artist’s imagination. And it is a real assault to the viewer, these are imagined monsters, old men, patriarchal structures pilaging, exploiting and penetrating the landscape.

This particular exhibition emerged from the artist’s dreams and his experience of the apartheid regime in South Africa. In his dreams, a white man dressed in a suite (a business man) destroys, choose and desires everything around him. Under his mighty finger, a long queue of labourers march toward an uncertain fate. Soho, is the name of this unknown and universal business man/industrialist, eats and devours all around him. ON the other hand, Felix is the poet, the dreamer. Both are part of William Kentridge’s world, and both represent different sides of the same coin. They also help to remember, to challenge, to question! The images show the massacre of hundred of people in Johannesburg when the artist was 5 or 6 years old. Images that he could not understand at the time, and yet they became part of his life and visions. It is through the raw drawing that they emerge… and moreover, Kentridge gives them life through animation and film. The effect is disturbing, surreal, profound. For him: “sometimes art and literature are a path to remembrance”

What I found fascinating about this exhibition is to realise that inhuman regimes like apartheid are not an exclusive heritage of a race or a group of people. For Kentridge, the tragedy is both outside and inside, the collective memory is broken and damaged by these events. It is only through art that we can unearth and question what happened there? why did we allow this to happen?

While watching these films I thought it would be interesting to show my own raw self-portraits, made in black and white, during a depressive moment of my life. This is all about my own situation, but also, it is a questioning to a system that push you so far until you simple break down! All the rhetoric of “work/life” balance is a chimera, it does not exist, you have to create it. Because we (women) are pushed by several fronts: externally, by a capitalistic system that makes us work and give us our worth because of our “professional” life; an institutional setting which lacks of boundaries with contradictory messages and perverse objectives; a social context of gender discrimination and everyday sexism questioning your very own existence in organisations and social systems; and worst of all, an internal mechanism of guilt and self-doubt, a self-disciplining / self-punishment in the best of Foucauldian surveillance mechanisms!

And on this happy note, I leave this post!



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