William Kentridge, a descendant of Lithuanian and German Jews, was born in 1955 in Johannesburg, where he lives and works. A multifaceted creator, he combines political criticism and poetic language. He alternates the practice of drawing and engraving with forays into the world of cinema and theatre, where he has worked as an actor, writer and director. His work engages with the South African context of apartheid, seeing himself as socially and politically committed artist. But he also speaks of the nature of human relationships and memory, the relationship between desire, ethics and responsibility. His work is often imbued with lyrical and dreamlike elements, as well as hints of comedy.
The feeling of belonging to the cultural periphery of Europe, and therefore of geographical distance from the centre, has resulted in a visual imagery of objects that represent a certain historical distance: thus, clothes, telephones, typewriters and other objects that appear in his drawings evoke the colonial world of the early twentieth century. Famous for his animated films based on erased sketches, his work includes charcoal drawings on paper, etchings, books, collages, sculptures and the performing arts.
Since 1979, his work has been exhibited in various museums. He has participated in several international competitions, including: the Venice Biennale (1993, 1999 and 2005); Sydney (1996, 1997 and 2008), São Paulo (1998); Havana (1997); Istanbul (1995); and Documenta in Kassel, Germany (1997, 2002 and 2012). A major retrospective of his work toured for three years, beginning with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in California in 2009. MACBA dedicated a solo exhibition to the artist in 1999.