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William Joseph Kentridge (South African, born 1955)
signed and dated 'KENTRIDGE '94' (lower right)
charcoal on paper
56 x 76cm (22 1/16 x 29 15/16in).
Cape Gallery, Church St, Cape Town
The figure of Nandi first makes her appearance in Kentridge's series 9 Drawings for Projection in the fifth film, Felix in Exile (1994). Many of the most memorable sequences in the film revolve around bodies being absorbed into the desolate landscape of Johannesburg's East Rand, a sustained meditation on how the landscape inters the evidence of violence and conflict played out across its surfaces.
The current lot was made for the project Felix in Exile, although it was not used as a working animation drawing in the film. In this charcoal drawing we see Kentridge exploring the issue of landscape and memory. This is achieved aesthetically through the gestural marks, shadows and smudges – the dance of absence and presence – that form temporal traces of the artist's hand.
Originally intended as just one of many bodies in the landscape, Nandi evolved into a central character in the film. As the film progresses, her experiences and insights are interwoven with those of the recurring character Felix Titelbaum, a "melancholic observer". Nandi, however, does more than just observe. Armed with a theodolite and other tools of geographic surveying, she marks and measures the land, unearthing the violence committed upon it in stark red renderings. Nevertheless, much like the Cassandra of classical mythology (who was gifted with a deep understanding and prophetic awareness), Nandi is tragically powerless. At the end of the film, she is reduced to just another body absorbed into the dirt and soon covered over by the discarded paper, wood and steel poles that accumulate around her. The present lot is a powerful evocation of this climactic moment.
S. Boris, 'The Process of Change: Landscape, Memory, Animation and Felix in Exile', William Kentridge, (Chicago, 2001), pp.28-37