b. Johannesburg, 1951
Selected Exhibitions | Selected Readings | Weblinks | Artist page | Introduction to Exhibit
Writing in the Sand pays respect to nine indigenous South African languages, officially recognized by the post-apartheid government but still under threat in a world dominated by "global" tongues. The artist warns that constitutional guarantees alone will not protect the precarious and precious cultural heritage embodied in local languages, many of which exist only in spoken form. Boshoff drew inspiration for this installation from the well-known parable of the unfaithful woman in the gospel of John (8:3-11). The Scribes and the Pharisees wish to stone the woman for her offenses. When they seek Christ's authorization, he replies that the one who has no sin should cast the first stone. He then kneels and begins to write in the sand. When he looks up, the angry accusers have fled, leaving the woman unharmed. Boshoff's work draws parallels to the painful process of post-apartheid healing and the actions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Like many of his installations that challenge dominant languages and scripts, Writing in the Sand turns the tables on viewers who speak a dominant language. The definitions of 18 obscure or perplexing English terms are given only in such indigenous languages as Sesotho, sa Leboa, isiXhosa, isiZulu or Tshivenda. In this way, words like pognology (the study of beards) or bruxism (the tendency to grind one's teeth) may only be understood by English speakers through dialogue with an indigenous speaker.
Writing in the Sand appears as two "pages" of black and white text. It is easily erased or disturbed and is ultimately ephemeral, as are language and meaning. Boshoff notes that even the silicone chip, as the basis of computer technology, is but a more sophisticated version of the sand he employs. And like his installation, script on the computer can be easily deleted by the tap of a finger.
1985 Tributaries, South Africa
1994 State of the Art, Everard Read Contemporary Gallery, Johannesburg.
1995 Inside/Outside, Africus Biennale, Johannesburg Art Gallery
FNB VITA Art Now, exhibition, Johannesburg Art Gallery
1996 Mermaid Theatre Gallery, London
23rd International Biennale of Sao Paulo
1997 Important and Exportant, Johannesburg Art Gallery
1998 Museu da Cidade, Pavilhao Branco, Lisbon, Portugal, and Brussels, Belgium
Kulturhuset, Stockholm, Sweden, thereafter in G»teborg, Sweden
1999 Conceptualist Art: Points of Origin 1950's - 1980's, Queens Museum of Art, New York
2000 Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis
Emergence, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.
2000 Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen), Antwerp, Belgium
Translation/Seduction/Displacement, White Box Gallery, Chelsea, New York
Museo Nacional, Centro de Arte, Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain
2001 The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, Stuttgart, Germany and US locations
Authentic/Ex-centric: Africa in and Africa Out of Africa, 49th Venice Biennale
Berman, Esra. Art and Artists of South Africa. Cape Town: Balkema, 1983.
Boshoff, Willem. Nonplussed. Johannesburg: Goodman Gallery, 2004.
Boshoff, Willem. Licked. Cape Town: Michael Stevenson Contemporary, n.d.
Enwezor, Okwui. Trade Routes: History and Geography (2nd Johannesburg Biennale). JohannesburgL Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, 1977.
Ferreira, Sid (President). 23rd Bienal Internacional Sao Paolo. Sao Paulo, 1996.
Firstenberg, Lauri, and John Peffer, eds. Translation/Seduction/Displacement. Post-Conceptual and Photographic Work by Artists from South Africa. New York: White Box Gallery, 1999.
Geers, Kendell, ed. Contemporary South African Art, The Gencor Collection. Johannesburg: Johnathan Ball, 1997.
Hassan, Salah, and Iftikar Dadi, eds. Unpacking Europe. Rotterdam: NAi Publisher, 2001.
Heartley Eleanor "Mapping the Postcolonial--Report from Johannesburg." Art in America(June 1999).
Inside/Outside (cat., Johannesburg Biennale). Johannesburg: Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, 1995.
Mosquera, Gerardo. Trade Route--History and Geography (cat., 2nd Johannesburg Biennale). Johannesburg: Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Council, 1997.
Rosengarten, Ruth. Don't Mess with Mister-in-Between. Lisbon, 1996.
Rosengarten, Ruth. "Inside Outside." Frieze (Summer 1995).
Williamson, Sue. Art in South Africa: The Future Present. Cape Town: David Philip, 1996.
Vita Art Now. Johannesburg: Johannesburg Art Gallery, 1996.