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Arts of Africa

At the MFAH, art from the diverse continent of Africa spans ancient to contemporary times and includes the world's most significant collection of gold objects: the Glassell Collection of African Gold.

© William Kentridge courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery, New York
South African, born 1955
Zeno Writing
16mm film, transferred to Beta and DVD
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Nina and Michael Zilkha; High Museum of Art, Atlanta

Arts of Africa

William Kentridge has commented that he is fascinated by “people stuck
at the edge of a historical project about to implode, stuck waiting for the eruption to happen.” Having come of age in a South Africa divided by apartheid, Kentridge has passionately resisted the politics of oppression through an ever-expanding body of work embracing drawing, film, video, and theatrical productions.

Zeno Writing takes as its point of departure Italo Svevo’s 1923 novel
The Confessions of Zeno (La coscienza di Zeno). Using what has become his signature style, Kentridge offers the viewer a montage that blends stop-action animations—made from torn-paper collages, shadow figures in procession, progressively erased and redrawn charcoal sketches—with archival film footage. The narrative echoes the voice of the novel’s main character, Zeno, a guilt-ridden figure in psychoanalysis, as he attempts to write his memoirs in the first years of the 20th century. However, Kentridge expands upon Svevo’s tale by looking forward to the cataclysm of World War I that swept away the social structures of Zeno’s world. Against an original soundtrack by composer Kevin Volans, Zeno Writing uses the story of individual crisis to contemplate a world devoured by violence.