Tapestries of shadows

2008-07-23 00:00

This handsome hardcover volume was published to mark the first exhibition of William Kentridge’s tapestries in the United States last December, and also serves as the exhibition catalogue.

As well as illustrating the 17 tapestries on the exhibition and detailing the process of creation, including a piece on the Stephens Tapestry Studio in Johannesburg and formerly in Swaziland, where they were made, the book shows other Kentridge works and the influences they had on these pieces.

The tapestries, made since 2001, show figures trudging forward against the backdrop of 19th century maps — including Johannesburg, Asia Minor, Spain and Portugal, Egypt and the places of the Jewish diaspora. Essays included in the volume deal with how tapestry is and has been seen as an art form throughout history, hovering on the art/craft divide, as well as critical evaluation of the work.

One particularly interesting essay, from a South African perspective, is by Ivan Vladislavic and deals with South African writing, particularly the farm novel in literature, the peri-urban life most South Africans now lead, and the “remapping” of South Africa post-1994.

Other essays are by Gabriele Guercio and Okwui Enwezor.

Margaret von Klemperer

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