William Kentridge's Black Box at Amsterdam's Jewish Museum

When in Amsterdam... visit William Kentridge's "Black Box". The Amsterdam's Jewish Historical Museum has on display the 'Black Box/Chambre Noire' (2005) and pieces associated with the making of this moving piece of art until 25 November 2012. 



The wonderful piece is expressionist in style in that form alludes to content and vise versa. The medium is multi-media, music, charcoal, theater and puppets.



To understand this art one must be aware of the history of European colonial powers and of Africa's southern region. Black Box tells the story of the Genocide of the Herero and Nama people from 1904 to 1907 in today's Namibia. 

Formally, known as German South West Africa the genocide resulted in over 100 000 people murdered. 75% of the Herero and Nama people were killed and the remainder were placed in concentration camps to work as slave labor.

This genocide has been recognised by the United Nations and the German Republic. To remember the 100 year anniversary Kentridge was commissioned by Deutsche Bank which resulted in the mechanical theatre 'Black Box'.

Kentridge is a South African artist of Jewish heritage. He uses the country's and region's history to socially connect his work to the audience. Kentridge has won numerous artistic awards including the 2009 Association of Art Critics Award. His background in theater and opera is evident in 'Black Box'.

Black Box is a puppet stage. Mechanical puppets move to a backdrop of art that has been created from charcoal and material that Kentridge gathered during research. Kentridge uses the backdrop of Mozart's Magic Flute as a structure but unlike the Magic Flute is not set in 1791 but 1904. The theme of the Magic Flute, the struggle between benevolence and authority, is evident.

Benevolence in 'Black Box' is colonialism and the brotherhood of humankind that European enlightenment developed. The enlightenment is still celebrated today and lays the foundations of western universities. Black Box reminds us that this knowledge developed to a back drop of violence, discrimination and extortion.

Black Box is a piece that can transcend time. The example of the Herero Genocide can be replaced by the Dutch in Indonesia, the English in Kenya or today's killings in the name of state sovereignty. 

For those that question the meaning of modern art Black Box connects you socially through history. The piece is emotional, morals are questioned and beauty realised. Well worth the Admission Price.




Jewish Historical Museum (JHM) in Amsterdam exhibits William Kentridge's work from 16 July until 25 November 2012. The JHM is also teaming up with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam to organise an events programme




When in Amsterdam... - Blogged