Willem Boshoff was commissioned by UJ to complete eleven granite 'denkstene' to celebrate the start of the new millennium. Entitled 'Kring van Kennis' (Circle of Knowledge), these stones were adapted from the Stone Age to be discussed by the visitors in the new epoch.
Each of the eleven contemplated stones represents one of the eleven official languages of South Africa in the form of texts in each of the eleven languages set into the stones.
Similar to the stone circles of the Stone Age, the stones are scattered here - standing alone or in groups of two or three. Together, they form a full circle on the walkway between A Ring, the library and the immediate terrace adjacent to the large inner court and the fountain.
Each stone is roughly circular with a diameter of about one meter. The stones are mostly knee-high, which is low enough for people to read the text and to offer seating. The orientation of the rocks in twos and threes allows for recreation and discussion, thereby becoming a type of 'academic chair' or 'seat', whereas the full circle symbolizes a circle of knowledge and deliberation.
The stones have been placed in a way that allows for easy movement around them. They are out of the way of main pedestrian traffic and there is sufficient standing-room for the rocks to be appreciated. This allows visitors to choose whether or not they want to participate. During a time of repose at the Kring van Kennis, the view of the inner court and the series of the University buildings is breathtaking.
The stones are black South African granite, which is durable enough to resist any wear and tear as well as exposure to the elements.
CONCEPT AND TEXT
Text has been set into the flat, top part of the granite rocks. About twenty inscriptions covering the theme of 'things that are worth learning about' are found on every stone or 'seat'. With the emphasis on knowledge, cognitive power, acumen and intelligence, typical University ideals are expressed and emphasized with -ology and -ism suffixes. In keeping with the patterns of the Western and African Stone Ages, the words appear in concentric circles.
Boshoff began to develop the text more than ten years ago as a dictionary of 'impossible' English. This provisional dictionary has almost been completed and contains about 18 000 short essays about English brain-teasers that are so difficult that even English intellectuals will struggle to understand them. He consulted about 200 dictionaries and finally worked through the 25 volumes of the Oxford English dictionary word for word in order to develop all the 'unknown' and mysterious-sounding words, or word The definiendum, that is the keyword that must be explained, is in English or is translated from English, and the explanatory part, the definiens, is in one of the other ten official languages of South Africa.
According to the artist, English is increasingly becoming the language medium of convenience in South Africa. This privileged position results too easily in denying the other ten official languages their role in practice, thus being neglected and even disregarded. The speakers of the other ten languages tend to make concessions and to learn English. The speakers of English are being accommodated to such an extent, given preference and even spoiled, and the other languages are being studied with greater r Boshoff says that in his work he attempts to reverse these roles of privilege and dependence in a relaxed atmosphere. The idea is to perplex the self-assured speakers of English with some of the most difficult English words in the dictionary. The speakers of other languages, who are also proficient in English in most cases, can then help the speakers of English to understand their own language, English, better. The same principle was applied to the artist's Blind Alphabet Project by giving the blind the "This work attempts to build a bridge between people who don't understand each other easily. Discussion, debate and ultimate understanding, within the framework of a philosophical game, encourage us to take note of the differences and similarities that exist between us - a knowledge that will lead to mutual respect of, and even admiration for, each other's inherent values. And eventually we discover each other. The 'circle of knowledge' then becomes 'that circle where we know each other'.
THE TECHNICAL ASPECT
The black granite used for the group of sculptures was taken from the Boschpoort farm in the Belfast district. From the outset, Frans Haarhoff and Leon Powell of Frans and Leon International Stones were closely involved in Willem Boshoff's stone sculpture of 33 tons. They also handled all aspects of the manufacturing process and the installing of the work.
The artist's instruction was that the granite must be taken out of the mountain and processed into a tumbled stone format. The stones were drilled and blasted smaller, and a diamond sawing blade was used to remove undesirable corners or marks.
Then the rock was eroded with a gas flame to obtain a velvety texture. The circles on the rocks were polished by hand to ensure that the text appeared clearly. The text was immortalized into the rock by means of a sand-blasting method.
The stones were transported from Belfast on a gigantic truck in September 2000, and after coping with a number of logistical problems, they were moved into place with the aid of a powerful crane and forklift.