Waiting for the Sibyl

The text in this book is essentially the libretto of the chamber opera WAITING for the SIBYL, commissioned by the Teatro del’ Opera di Roma and premiered in Rome in September 2019. The musical score for the opera was composed by Nhlanhla Mahlangu and Kyle Shepherd.

In WAITING for the SIBYL, Kentridge evokes the Cumaean Sibyl, a High Priestess who writes people’s prophecies on oak leaves. Although this eccentric Roman opera has drawn to a close, it lives on through the beautiful pages of this book. The images and phrases found inside were projected on different size screens in the opera, sometimes in sync with the sung text, sometimes independent of any sung text. These phrases come from many sources. Lines from different poets were used: translations from Finnish, Hebrew, Spanish, Greek, Polish, Russian and German. Some lines are renderings of African proverbs. Some were written specifically for the opera. The text is therefore compiled rather than written. In the opera production, the right-hand page generally had text, and the left-hand page had a mixture of drawings and the shadow of a dancer on stage cast onto the projection surface. In this book, there are more and different drawings than are used in the opera. Some drawings of the dancer Teresa Phuti Mojela stand-in for her shadow cast by a projector.

WAITING for the SIBYL is compiled and published in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic, a time in which it is not possible to perform the opera live. The project is undertaken in anticipation of the time when the opera can be seen in its full form again.

The Head & the Load

This book gives an in-depth examination of his performance piece THE HEAD & THE LOAD, which explores the role of Africa during World War I.

Throughout the war, more than one million Africans carried provisions and military equipment in hazardous conditions for British, French, and German troops at minimal or no pay. William Kentridge tells the story of these African porters who ensured the success of the victors, but remain in the shadows. This history, rarely studied today, unfolds in a staged tableau combining music, dance, acting, screenings, and mechanized sculptures.

THE HEAD & THE LOAD includes photos and text from the performance, essays, and artworks created specifically by Kentridge to complement the play.