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William Kentridge is a brilliant artist from South Africa. His background is drawing, theater and film. He does a cross-medium between different genres. He doesn’t work with a script or a storyboard. Oddly enough, he had no work experience by age 30, so his friends said no one would hire him. Then Kentridge concluded that he was an artist.
Kentridge uses art to make sense of the world, particularly through animated films. Like Enrique Martinez Celaya and Marina Abramovic, Kentridge believes in the power of failure. He said you can be rescued by one’s failures, and sometimes the best ideas are really bad.
Kentridge says there’s desperation in all certainty. People will come in with armies to prove their certainty. Uncertainty is okay, whether political or religious. You can see the world as a series of facts and photographs, or you can see the world as unfolding.
Historically, Kentridge is right. If you disagreed with the Inquisition, the leaders of the French Revolution, Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, or Mao, you were either killed or sent to prison. Sometimes your friends and family were also killed. Today in America, if you express a different opinion, the Press comes after you, or you’re crucified through social media. But to be open-minded, to see the world as unfolding is exciting.
Kentridge said every artist uses other people’s pain as well as their own. There’s an appropriation in other people’s distress in being a writer or an artist.
He’s absolutely right! Thank goodness art helps us make sense of the world. Not to mention, art is a healing tool.
William Kentridge is not only an artist, but a philosopher.
My mother worked for a Jewish businessman back in the 1960s. As a little kid, Mr. B, who resembled Harry Carey, invited us into his office to give us soda pop from his mini-frig. He fawned over us as if we were his own grandkids. He was the kindest man.
Mr. B grew up in a wealthy Jewish neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Once these tree-crowned boulevards were lined with mansions. Now they are black neighborhoods where you take your life in your hands because of gang warfare. Mr. B told my mom that Jewish people are sympathetic toward African-Americans because they share a similar history. Indeed, many former Jewish neighborhoods are now black.
So, is there a parallel between Jewish people and African-Americans?
Let’s take a look:
Sadly, there are many parallels between the Jewish people and African-Americans. I see why Mr. B was sympathetic toward blacks.
As I said, Mr. B was the kindest man, and I’ll always remember him with a smile.by
Illinois was a Free State, right? Well, yes. And no.
The first people to settle Illinois were Native Americans. Then the French moved in and brought slavery with them. The first lieutenant governor of Illinois, Pierre Menard, owned slaves. You can visit his home in Ellis Grove, Illinois. Unfortunately, the slave cabins no longer exist. The French Colonial architecture is similar to the Laura Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. But yes, the French brought slaves into Illinois. In fact, the oldest towns in Illinois are French towns like Cahokia (1699), Kaskaskia (1703), and Prairie de Rocher (1722). It’s worth pointing out that many people in southern Illinois have their roots in Kentucky and Virginia, so they were sympathetic toward slavery.
Fast forward to the 1800s. Slaves were auctioned off in Market Square in Galena, Illinois, now a historic town in northwestern Illinois known for romantic getaways. It’s also home to several Civil War generals; the best known is Ulysses Grant. Rich Southerners owned mansions in Galena and brought their “servants” with them. Galena thrived from the 1840s until after the Civil War. It was a lead mining town, but many miners left once gold was discovered in California.
Illinois also allowed slaves to perform hard labor. John Crenshaw, a Southerner, in Equality, Illinois had slaves work his salt mines. He also captured free blacks and sold them into slavery. His house, known as Hickory Hill, will be the subject of another post.
Finally, the Dred Scott case of 1857 opened the door to slavery in all states. So slavery did exist in Illinois from French Colonial times onward. Southerners also brought their “servants” with them when they visited the North or lived up North.by