Archive of Darkness: William Kentridge's Black Box/Chambre Noire

Ferdinand de Jong

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Situating itself in histories of cinema and installation art, William Kentridge's Black Box/Chambre Noire (2005) raises questions about screens, exhibition space, site-specificity and spectatorship. Through his timely intervention in a debate on Germany’s colonial past, Kentridge’s postcolonial art has contributed to the recognition and remembrance of a forgotten, colonial genocide. This article argues that, by transposing his signature technique of drawings for projection onto a new set of media, Kentridge explores how and what we can know through cinematic projection in the white cube. In particular, his metaphor of the illuminated shadow enables him to animate archival fragments as shadows and silhouettes. By creating a multi-directional archive, Black Box enables an affective engagement with the spectres of colonialism and provides a forum for the calibration of moral questions around reparation, reconciliation and forgiveness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-23
Number of pages14
JournalAfrican Arts
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2018


  • Archive
  • Darkness
  • Shadows
  • William Kentridge
  • Herero
  • Holocaust
  • genocide
  • multidirectional memory

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