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The Head and The Load - William Kentridge & Philip Miller

In July, our friends at 14-18 NOW and Tate presented an ambitious new work, The Head & the Load, by South African artist William Kentridge and composer Philip Miller. A sold out audience in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall experienced the world premiere of the work live and now you have a unique opportunity to watch the performance as it happened. The piece explores the largely untold story of the tens of thousands of African porters and carriers during the First World War. The epic work looks back at the global impact of the war at the centenary of Armistice.

About The Head & the Load

The Head & the Load, an ambitious new work from William Kentridge with music composed and conceived by Philip Miller, received 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 tells the largely untold story of the role of African porters and carriers during that war. The work is co-commissioned with New York’s Park Avenue Armory, Ruhrtriennale, MASS MoCA with additional support from Holland Festival.

The Head & the Load sees Kentridge work with his long-time collaborator Philip Miller, one of South Africa’s leading composers, musical director Thuthuka Sibisi 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 Tswana proverb, ‘the head and the load are the troubles of the neck’, this epic theatrical-music piece will tell the neglected story of the hundreds of thousands of African porters and carriers who served British, French and German forces during the First World War. It draws on every aspect of Kentridge’s practice to combine music, dance, 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. His work has been shown and collected by museums all over the world.

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

Produced by THE OFFICE performing arts + film in association with Quaternaire.World premiere in London at Tate Modern with support from the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. 14–18 NOW is supported by the National Lottery through Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, and by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

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

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 has been seen by 4 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.


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