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Second-Hand Reading: William Kentridge and Zanele Muholi at the Mead Art Museum
William Kentridge (South African, b. 1955), Second-Hand Reading, 2013. Single channel HD video. © William Kentridge.

AMHERST, MASS.- On Tuesday, Feb. 16, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College opened “Second-Hand Reading: William Kentridge and Zanele Muholi,” one of the first exhibitions to focus exclusively on how the works of these two prominent contemporary South African artists represent their native country’s unfolding history.

Emerging from different generations, Kentridge (b. 1955) and Muholi (b. 1972) create artworks that reflect on the complex history of race and gender in South Africa through distinct media, artistic philosophies and emphases. Muholi’s black-and-white photographs portray South Africa’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community through portraits from her Faces and Phases series as well as her recent self-portraits. An activist as well as an artist, she seeks to “re-write a black queer and trans visual history of South Africa for the world.” Kentridge, who has dedicated the last four decades to examining apartheid’s effects on his life and South Africa’s historical memory, deploys a variety of artistic techniques—text, drawing and stop-motion film—to articulate the elusive nature of marking and narrating history.

The exhibition features a selection of Muholi’s photographs, works on paper by Kentridge and his 2013 film “Second-Hand Reading” set to the music of South African composer Neo Muyanga.

Muholi studied photography at the Market Photo Workshop in Newtown, Johannesburg, and holds an MFA in documentary media from Ryerson University, Toronto. She cofounded the Forum for the Empowerment of Women (2002) and founded Inkanyiso (2009), both of which serve as forums for queer and visual media. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Infinity Award for Documentary and Photojournalism (2016), the Fine Prize for an emerging artist at the Carnegie International (2013), the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression art award (2013), and the Casa Africa award for best female photographer (2009). She lives in Johannesburg.

Kentridge attended the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Art Foundation. He studied theater and mime at L’École Jacques Lecoq in Paris. In recognition of his contributions to arts and philosophy he has received numerous awards, among them the prestigious Kyoto Prize (2010), the Oskar Kokoschka Award, Vienna (2008), and the Carnegie Prize. He is an elected member of the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and received honorary doctorate degrees from Royal College of Art, London, Yale University, and the University of Cape Town. He also lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The exhibition has been organized by David E. Little, director and chief curator of the Mead. Until August 2015, Little served as curator and head of the department of photography and new media at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

“Second-Hand Reading: William Kentridge and Zaneli Muholi” runs through April 3, 2016.

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