The Centre was founded in downtown Johannesburg by the multidisciplinary artist William Kentridge, whose thrilling work can be seen at the Royal Academy; and Kentridge himself was at the Barbican to introduce the programme.
The name of his Centre, he explained, came from an old Tswana proverb: ‘if the good doctor can’t cure you, find the less good doctor.’ The centre offers local artists a place to develop their ideas under the guidance of invited curators.
Judging by the work included in To What End, local artists have grabbed the chance with both hands and the programme works as a kaleidoscope of Such African life, blending the purely ludic with the political and social, at once entertaining and thought-provoking.
The sjambok is an evil-looking thing, a leather whip some 1.5 metres long that whistles menacingly when cutting through the air. Though it’s still used to drive cattle, its association with the horrific repression of black people during apartheid persists in memories; and it’s the basis for The Weep of Whips.
The Weep of the Whips, Thulisile Binda. Photo: Jemima Yong
A two-hander performed by Thulisile Binda and Micca Manganye, that seeks to recover the power of the sjambok, this is a fierce piece, its movement full of challenge and confrontation. It’s mesmerising.
In Commission Continua, a sole performer, Tony Bonani Miyambo, is an archivist rambling on about the monotony of government commissions of inquiry in a deceptively low-key piece that leads to an unexpected explosion of anger and frustration with the pointlessness of it all. Bonani Miyambo is terrific and deservedly gets one of the strongest ovations of the night.
Music is harnessed for pure entertainment, as in Sounds of Limpopo where Micca Manganye and Volley Nchabeleng play an impressive array of weird and wonderful instruments…
Sounds of Limpopo, Micca Manganye. Photo: Jemima Yong
…or to help tell a story, as in the breathtaking Umthandazo (pictured top), an all-woman performance that pays homage to the widows of the 2012 Marikana massacre, when 34 miners were shot dead by the South African Police Service during a wildcat strike.
Footnotes skilfully makes music out of the clickety-clack of typewriters, as five men type eviction notices, and in Pitsana (The Pot), the extraordinary performer Thulisile Binda returns as a much-put-upon woman who suddenly decides, no more; or, as a narrator puts it, she is ‘the kind of woman who would never leave her shadow behind.’
To What End is a vibrant, vital show with a lot to say and highly ingenious ways of saying it. It stands well on its own two feet, or as a welcome complement to William Kentridge’s exhibition at the Royal Academy.
Age Guidance: 14+
|What||The Centre for the Less Good Idea, To What End review|
|Where||Barbican Centre, Silk Street, London, EC2Y 8DS | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Barbican (underground)|
06 Oct 22 – 09 Oct 22, 19:45 Sun at 15:00 Dur.: 1 hour 30 mins no interval
|Website||Click here to book|