Willem Boshoff was born in Vereeniging, South Africa, in 1951. His father was a carpenter who worked in and around Vanderbijlpark, very close to where the Sharpeville massacre occurred in 1960. Boshoff studied and taught at the Johannesburg College of Art and the Witwatersrand Technikon, and he lives in Johannesburg. He is both a wordsmith and a maker of images and objects.
A self-taught dendrologist, he ranges widely across the fields of botany, literature, and geography. He has made concrete poetry; he reads and makes dictionaries; he is a sculptor and makes installations; he is an inveterate seeker after words, names, plants, and objects both natural and synthetic, from which he constructs his sculptures and images. ‘One of his main aims,’ says the writer Ivan Vladislavic in the monograph TAXI-11 Willem Boshoff, ‘is recovery – of lost words, sated senses, family unities, broken maps.’ Boshoff’s encyclopaedic impulse is evidenced in his collecting and making practices: everything is material for making art, every detail in the natural world is imbued with meaning and can be appropriated or spoken of with fervour. Many of Boshoff’s works are incomplete, evolving, or in process as long as the world yields some form of knowledge that he can incorporate into what he is making.
Boshoff’s work has been shown at many major museums in the world and he has been included in biennales in Johannesburg, Havana, Venice, and Saõ Paolo. His solo shows and permanent installations include Blind Alphabet; Nonplussed; dictionaries; cryptic writings such as Bangboek; the ever-growing Garden of Words; and his massive sculptures in stone. He exhibited at the Nirox Foundation outside of Johannesburg, and Circa Gallery.