Today – Good Friday – we have been giving some thought to the difficulties of being ‘good’. Fear of failure too often pushes us to conform, stifling growth and limiting the potential outcomes.

So it’s with glee that we hear about the Centre for the Less Good Idea, an arts foundation recently opened by South African artist William Kentridge near his studio in Johannesburg, which he says provides a “safe space for uncertainty, doubt, stupidity and, at times, failure.”

The name of the foundation is a reference to the process of creation, which often sees artists derailed from exploring initial ideas and focusing on “secondary ideas that emerge during the process of making.” 

The new centre’s inaugural season of performances, film screenings and art displays took place in March, organised by the theatre director and playwright Khayelihle Dominique Gumede, the poet, author and activist Lebogang Mashile, the dancer-choreographer Gregory Maqoma, and Kentridge himself. It brought together 60 participants including actors, dancers, poets, writers, artists, composers, film-makers and boxers. They worked together to create a series of public performances, including the staging of four plays by Samuel Beckett, a work by the Nigerian playwright Wole Soyinka, a parade, and a series of performances in collaboration with a local boxing club.

Kentridge hopes to give creative individuals the freedom to explore their ideas without having to conform to anyone else’s agenda. Artists should follow their instincts, he says, and listen to the ideas of other creative individuals, even if the results are not always successful. He says his own artistic failures have made him the artist he is today. “In my own life, there have been many, many failures. I wanted to paint in oil paints, I failed at that. I went to Paris to become an actor, I failed at that too. I wanted to make films and write film scripts, and I also failed at that. And I was reduced to being an artist. Yet many years later I discovered that all these different areas in which I had tried to specialise and make a life for myself, all of these failures in fact provided very rich material.”

Main image: William Kentridge at his art foundation in South Africa (Photo: Stella Olivier)


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