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Oh to Believe in Another World

- Wits University

South African premiere of the new topically relevant film by Wits alumnus and world-renowned artist, William Kentridge, will take place at Wits in July.

It happens once in 100 years - at a time when our world is in need of hope, of goodness, of courage, of inspiration, and solutions to global issues - Wits University is celebrating a century of academic and research excellence, social justice, and the advancement of the public good. 

In honour of its centennial anniversary, the University has launched the Wits Centenary Campaign which aims to raise R3 billion to support teaching, research and innovation, students and infrastructure development. To date, the campaign has raised R2.1 billion.

Wits alumnus and world renowned artist, William Kentridge.

A key part of its centennial celebrations is a partnership with alumnus and internationally renowned artist, William Kentridge, to present the South African premiere of the film Oh to Believe in Another World, accompanied by Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, which will be performed by the Mzansi National Philharmonic Orchestra, on 28 July 2022 (public show) at the Wits Linder Auditorium (see booking details below). Renowned artistic conductor Joseph Young from the USA will conduct the newly formed Mzansi National Philharmonic Orchestra.

Kentridge, who is the mastermind behind the film, explains that the key task in making the film was to ensure that the symphony did not turn into “film music”, that the series of images and narratives did not overwhelm the music itself, and that it didn’t run as a series of anodyne backdrops.

“Rather, the aim of the film is to tell the story of Shostakovich and his complicated relationship to the state in the Soviet Union, from its early days just after the 1917 revolution, all the way through to Stalin’s death in 1953. It provides the material for thinking visually about the trajectory that Shostakovich had to follow, from the early days of the Soviet Union to the writing of the symphony.”

The production takes a retrospective look at the four decades of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, from the perspective of 1953 when Stalin died and the first performance of the symphony was presented. The 1920s were marked by the death of Lenin; the 1930s by the suicide of Mayakovsky; the 1940s by the assassination of Trotsky; and the death of Stalin in the 1950s – and here we are, almost 70 years later.

“The report that remains of these decades is in the music of Shostakovich, the one who against expectation got away and survived,” adds Kentridge.

The film is set inside what appears to be an abandoned Soviet museum, which is in fact made of cardboard, on the table in the artist’s studio. Using a miniature camera, the viewer moves through the different halls of the museum, which also includes a community theatre hall, a public swimming pool, a quarry at the side of the main halls, and a corridor of vitrines holding stuffed historical figures.

Kentridge has also donated an edition of prints on the occasion of the Wits Centenary, the proceeds of which will go to deserving Wits art students. Wits vice-chancellor and principal Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, says the university is grateful for this donation from one of its world-renowned alumni. He also recently met with William’s father, Sir Sydney Kentridge, in London, who coincidentally turns 100 in October this year during Wits’ birthday month.  

The next 100 years - A new world filled with possibilities

Wits’ Centenary Campaign, explains Vilakazi, is an opportunity for the university’s global community to celebrate the impact that Wits has had on their lives, a chance to reflect and to look to the future. “Our aim is to attract top teaching and research talent in order to provide the best education to our students while ensuring that we also tackle some of the biggest challenges, both social and technical, that the present and future will bring,” says Vilakazi.

The Centenary Campaign consists of eight priority areas: advancing society, governance and justice; future proofing national treasures; catalysing innovation and entrepreneurship; developing the next generation of leaders; energising alumni support; driving digital transformation; ensuring better health for all; and solving global challenges.

Inviting the people of SA to celebrate this momentous year with Wits, Vilakazi says, “This is an opportune moment for the university to pivot into a new world filled with possibilities, not only to work hard to transform lives today, but to lay the groundwork to ensure that Wits remains a leading, sustainable university for the next 100 years.”

“We must harness the talent and the resources that we have at our disposal to craft a new future for Wits, and to ensure that it benefits and advances humanity. Oh to Believe in Another World, is just the start of this journey,” he concludes.

Read more about the Wits Centenary Campaign at


To book your ticket for the public show on 28 July 2022 at the Wits Linder Auditorium, visit the Webtickets event page: Oh To Believe in Another World

'Oh to Believe in Another World' - a new film by Wits alumnus and world renowned artist, William Kentridge