Visiting South African Artist Rejects Israel Boycott, Opting to Protest in Jerusalem Instead

In Israel to present a retrospective of his work, William Kentridge criticizes Israeli policy and visits the contested East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.

South African artist William Kentridge has come to Israel for a retrospective of his work that opened at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem last Friday.

Though Kentridge, who is known for his vocal political opinions, had been pressured not to come by advocates of boycotting Israel, he decided instead to express his opposition to Israeli policy by attending the weekly demonstration in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. He also met with author David Grossman.

kentridge - AP - March 7 2011

In addition, he used a press conference yesterday to condemn Israel's actions. However, he added, he does not believe cultural boycotts are the right solution.

Despite certain characteristics in common, Kentridge continued, he does not think Israel's occupation of the Palestinians should be compared to South African apartheid. Nevertheless, he said, both apartheid and the occupation revolve around the same key question: How much should we rely on the past to justify our existence, and how much should we forget in order to move forward?

'Proud to host exhibition'

Israel Museum director James Snyder told reporters that the museum, which has been collecting Kentridge works since the late 1990s, was "proud" to host such an important exhibition. The exhibition, a joint venture between the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Norton Museum of Art, is traveling to four other cities before ending in New York's Museum of Modern Art.

Kentridge, born in Johannesburg in 1954, gained fame in the late 1980s for a series of works harshly critical of South Africa's apartheid regime.