THE significant contribution of African men and women in the First World War is being marked in a major new feature at London’s Tate Modern.

The Head & the Load, from artist William Kentridge and performed against the dramatic backdrop of Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, combines music, dance, film projections, mechanised sculptures and shadow play to tell the untold story of the hundreds of thousands of African porters and carriers who served in British, French and German forces during the First World War.

One of South Africa’s leading composers, Philip Miller, and musical director Thuthuka Sibisi have created an original score that draws on a wide range of traditions. Orchestra collective The Knights perform along with an international cast of singers, dancers and performers, many of whom are based in South Africa.

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

Jenny Waldman, director of 14-18 NOW, said: “We are delighted to commission William Kentridge to create this new performance work, a powerful monument to the huge sacrifice made by millions of Africans during the First World War.”

Frances Morris, director of Tate Modern, said: “Tate Modern is committed to telling relevant and complex global stories across all art forms and we are privileged to be premiering this poignant new performance devised by William Kentridge. The Head & the Load will bring long overdue attention to the African contribution in the First World War, recognising the weight of a history made heavier by its invisibility.”

In addition to The Head & the Load, visitors to the Tate Modern will be able to view works by William Kentridge across both its free collection displays and cinema programme.

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