This important lot formed part of a suite of approximately 45 drawings depicting mining landscapes around Johannesburg and the platinum belt northwest of the city. The drawings were done over a three-year period and were chiefly executed on pages from a 1906 cashbook from East Rand Proprietary Mines in Boksburg. More than mere substrate, these ledger entries are repositories of history and a palimpsest of on-going labour. Mining landscapes are central to Kentridge’s professional biography. “I started calling myself an artist in my thirties when I discovered not just the necessity but the pleasure of drawing the landscape just to the south of Johannesburg, to the south of the leafy suburb I lived in,” he has written. “And also when I discovered the pleasure of a soft chamois leather dipped into charcoal dust and wiped across the white surface of the paper, leaving not just a train of dark charcoal grit on the paper but also of a darkening sky above a light horizon.”1
The landscape recorded in this drawing describes the low hill near a mine owned by Lonmin in the Marikana area, where the police killed 34 miners in August 2012. Referred to in records both as “small koppie” and “Thaba Nyana”, the mound was a site of assembly for striking miners and, according to photojournalist Greg Marinovich, was “a place imbued with power”.2
Kentridge visited the site, noting: “I was interested to know what the Marikana landscape felt like … The shocking thing was how small the landscape looked, how close to the town the hill was. How much larger the rock looked in the newspaper photographs than the actual hillock. How tiny the small koppie was across which people were chased by the police and executed between the rocks. And how sordid it felt.”3
The white cones in the foreground quote from photos of ballistics experts and forensic pathologists investigating the crime scene after the 2012 shooting. Another drawing from the suite more plainly depicts this post-mortem of the most lethal use of force by South African security forces against civilians since 1976.
1. William Kentridge and Jane Taylor (2018) That Which We Do Not Remember, Sydney: Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Page 102.
2. Greg Marinovich (2016) Murder at Small Koppie, Cape Town: Penguin: Random House. Page 3.
3. William Kentridge and Denis Hirson (2017) Footnotes for the Panther, Johannesburg: Fourthwall Books. Page 199.
Goodman Gallery, Johannesburg, Drawings; East Rand Proprietary Mines Cash Book, 15 November to 18 December 2014.
William Kentridge and Rosalind C Morris (2015) Accounts and Drawings from Underground: East Rand Proprietary Mines Cash Book, 1906, Calcutta: Seagull Books. Illustrated in colour, unpaginated.