William Kentridge’s family fought apartheid. It influences his work today

“[Charcoal] became a medium in which to think, rather than a medium to illustrate thoughts,” says William Kentridge. Photo by Norbert Miguletz.

South African artist William Kentridge is a filmmaker, sculptor, puppeteer, and director of plays and operas. He’s best known for his charcoal illustrations and unique animation style, where he draws a picture, films it, makes changes by erasing and redrawing — much like stop-motion animation. These short films have a chaotic choppiness and sense of urgency that’s inspired by social justice and his native country’s transition from apartheid to democracy. His parents were prominent activisits and attorneys who represented Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Thirty years worth of Kentridge's work has been collected for a new career-spanning exhibition at the Broad Museum in downtown LA. It’s called “William Kentridge: In Praise of Shadows” and runs through April 9.