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Rome's filth turned into breathtaking art

2,769 years of history written on the dirt. This is the impressive birthday present of South African artist William Kentridge to Rome on occasion of the birth of the eternal city: covering the Tiber walls with 550 meters of the city's history.

TAGS: Zoom In Eternal City Rated-G Rated-U Italian Capital Mural History of Rome William Kentridge Tiber Walls

William Kentridge gave the city of Rome a birthday present to remember yesterday on 21 April, at the inauguration of his monumental mural along the right bank of the river Tiber, Triumphs and Laments.


The date marked the Natale di Roma, the anniversary of the capital’s legendary founding in 753BC. The 550m-long frieze depicting a procession of more than 80 figures from Roman mythology to the present is the South African artist’s largest public work to date. To celebrate its launch, Kentridge and his long-time collaborator, the composer Philip Miller, have devised a series of performances featuring live shadow play and more than 40 musicians.

The figures, which are up to 12m high, chart the city’s historic victories and defeats, ranging from Romulus and Remus to Pier Paolo Pasolini, the filmmaker, writer and intellectual who was murdered outside Rome in 1975. “I’m not interested in telling a chronological history of Rome,” Kentridge said, choosing instead to present “fragments [from which the public] can reconstruct a possible history”.