This series of etchings by began as preparatory drawings for a proposed cantata on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Engels, who was to design the sets and costumes for the cantata, had worked in theatre and opera for many years. Though he had never done etching before, Engels took to the medium with ease, producing a series of prints that testify to his long acquaintance with the stage and his remarkable skills as a draughtsman. Combining drypoint, etching and aquatint, Engels produced a haunting suite of images: in some, figures stand rank and file under spotlights and in others he incorporated text (the names of the thousands who participated in the TRC hearings were to be projected onto a backdrop during the production of the cantata).

Antjie Krog, poet, journalist, academic, and author of the searing novel Country of My Skull – written while Krog was covering the Truth and Reconciliation hearings for radio – was to write the libretto for the cantata. Philip Miller, who is well known for his music for the films of William Kentridge, was the proposed composer and Janice Honeyman, a veteran of South African theatre, would have directed. While the production did not in fact come to fruition, Engels’ etchings remain as a testimony.

© David Krut Projects_Johan Engels


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