South African artist William Kentridge, best known for his prints, drawings, and animated films, with works topping $1.5M at auction, has strong feelings on the “dramatic political event” caused by Nelson Mandela’s death. Kentridge’s family held close ties with the late, former, South African president, his father, Mandela’s leading defense lawyer and his mother a human rights lawyer. Kentridge shares some of his feelings below.
“There were a lot of faults during his era as president. Within his own political decision-making, he was definitely damaged by the sense of loyalty he had to old friends: even if they were incompetent, they were given important positions in government.”
“But there was always a mixture of courage and generosity that was astonishing. Sometimes one could not understand his generosity. Why did he want to make such efforts to include such terrible people back into society, after he had been released? But each time I would say: ‘No, he is the person ahead, we are behind him.”
“There were such expectations that political freedom was going to turn into economic and political equality, but it doesn’t work that way: you can start a mass nationalisation of all the mines and farms and land and then carry out a huge redistribution, but it is very difficult to do if you are not a self-supporting economy, and you have to rely on foreign investments to keep your mines working and develop new industries. In that sense, I think his hands were very much tied by the situation. South Africa was very dependent on foreign investments coming in, which would have stopped immediately and totally, if there had been huge nationalisation.”
William Kentridge believes South Africa let Nelson Mandela down (The Art Newspaper)