Second-hand Reading is a video animation by South African artist William Kentridge, who is known for his reflections on time, violence, and resilience that address the history of colonialism, and the aspirations and failures of revolutionary politics. This poetic ode is presented as a succession of drawings that are continuously erased and reworked directly on the pages of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Working in the sociopolitical context of apartheid and its aftermath, Kentridge offers an evolutionary content where meaning is built through the act of creation.

Within this grammar of the world and of the wound, Kentridge appears in the form of a pensive, preoccupied silhouette in dialogue with passing images of landscapes, trees, megaphones, typewriters, animals, and everyday objects. The seven-minute visual narrative unfolds to the melancholic music of Neo Muyanga, a music theorist, librettist, musician, and composer born in 1974 in Soweto, South Africa.

William Kentridge is one of today’s most compelling contemporary artists. He is widely respected and celebrated for his drawings, films, lectures, opera and theatre productions that poetically and obliquely address philosophical and political issues, literature, and cinema. The narrative power of his work expresses a deep ambivalence towards his native country. Highly personal and sensitive to the ambiguities of contemporary South Africa, it hinges on the paradox between the brutality and poetic force of its content.