May 18, 2015
Willem Boshoff is not a very good artist. In fact, it is hard to even call him an artist at all, as the only “art” he produces are goofy “installations,” usually made of crap, with words on them.
However, his latest piece of crap takes on the issue of being called a “racist” in South Africa, and is rustling quite a few jimmies. And that’s a good thing.
Controversy is brewing around the selection of a work by a major South African artist, Willem Boshoff, for the country’s official exhibition at the Venice Biennale international art exhibition.
Young South African artists reacted strongly last week to Racist in South Africa, which has a prominent place on the group show What Remains is Tomorrow at the South African Pavilion in the Italian city.
It is a 120cm x 120cm piece of text engraved into aluminium, which rants in despair about the state of the nation.
The work begins with the line “I am proud to be labelled racist in South Africa if it means that…” and lists a plethora of gripes, each one framed within a rhetoric of racialised fears that include “I am revolted by ineffective, dim-witted 4 X 4 politicians; I am shocked that countless farm murders go unchallenged; I loathe it when the police take bribes without being punished.”
Boshoff says you can call him a racist if “I appreciate security walls, electrical fences and guard dogs; I fly into a rage when sports teams are forced to select undeserving players; I could scream in frustration when jobs are given to unqualified people and I am afraid for the lives of my children when they walk out into the street.”
Numerous South African visitors to the exhibition that City Press spoke to expressed disdain for the work. No one wanted to be named, but they included young local artists on the same show.
One artist referred to the piece as “a ballad of white privilege … I’ll never take Boshoff seriously again”. A significant player in the art scene said: “This work isn’t even a liberal white person ranting. It’s 100% conservative.” Another artist told City Press: “It’s 2015 and this is what South Africa has to show? I just don’t have time for this shit.”
Social-media users had a mixed response to the work. Many defended it, saying Boshoff was just speaking the truth. Others likened it to Steve Hofmeyr lyrics. Artists questioned its tone, saying Boshoff’s white, privileged position undermined the reality of crime and corruption on black South African lives and did not place crime and violence within a context – the after-effects of apartheid.
“I don’t have anything to say; the work speaks for itself,” said Boshoff when City Press told him about some of the responses. He said he made the work in 2011 when it was shown at a solo exhibition in Joburg and that he didn’t choose it for the biennale; it was chosen by a committee.
Her is the piece:
How dare he not want to get butchered by Blacks.
It’s pure hatred.
The idea that privileged Whites actually believe they have a right not to be slaughtered like pigs by Blacks just makes me sick.