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William Kentridge
The Artists’ Press; Johannesburg, RSA
Edition: #13/33
Inscription: Signed by the artist

Portage (2006) is a 4m-long accordion-fold (leporello) book. It contains chine collé figures cut from black Canson paper glued to pages from a c1906 edition of Le Petit Larousse Illustré – which was, itself, printed and published in Paris at the immediate end of the Russo-Japanese War (one of the central themes of Cendrars’s and Delaunay’s Prose du Transsibérien). These images are mounted onto sheets of Vélin Arches Crème. The factual dictionary definitions literally and figuratively support the procession of shadowy figures presenting a narrative which is particularly undefined and open to interpretation and speculation. Familiarity with South Africa’s history of migrant labour, forced removals and dispossession of peoples from ancestral lands in the colonial and pre-democratic eras might help situate this motley collection of anonymous exiles. Resolute (Southern) Africans move inexorably towards a future which can only be imagined and hoped for but also paradoxically, there exists a possible reading of an exuberant atmosphere of carnival.

Just as we might find in Kentridge’s earlier film Shadow Procession (1999), procession is one of his great themes, a symbol of humanity’s journey through life (Quod Gallery 2013) “even as it avoids pinning the work to any specific time or place” (Lenfield 2012).

The colophon states: “Images are chine collé of black Canson paper on pages of Le Nouveau Larousse Illustré circa 1906 supported by cream Arches paper. Edition cloth casing made by Peter Carstens”. With the Artists’ Press chop on the colophon page.

MoMA 2017 [o] Available: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/86810?locale=en

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