John Anthony Boerma

In 1987 I left Nelspruit in Mpumalanga for the great metropolis : Johannesburg. There I enrolled at the University of the Witwatersrand where I studied painting, drawing, printmaking and sculpture as well as the history of art. After two years of study I had to leave the country as a member of the End Conscription Campaign. This led me to The Netherlands where I registered at the Akademie Minerva in Painting and Illustration. I won a scholarship to complete an independent study programme in New York at the Cooper Union. 

During my time in New York . It was at this time that I discovered performance art and changed my name to Johnny go lightly, a fictitious character based on Holly Golightly, the main character from Breakfast at Tiffany's. I was tired of my provincial past and did not want my Afrikaansness so publicly displayed. Golightly meant that I had no past and no reference to anything or anyone, an alter ego that was fun loving and outrageously camp. Golightly was to remain with me for the next 20 years.

Living a non conformist lifestyle in every way I rarely exhibited in conventional gallery spaces. My exhibitions were well planned events with my opening nights carefully choreographed to the last detail. 

After living in New York for 5 years I returned to The Netherlands to graduate. Following that I returned to South Africa where I was offered a job as assistant director for visual arts and crafts in the Department of Arts and Culture. I sublimated my alter ego for the sake of workday conformity.

While working as a government official I still exhibited my work under the name of johnny golightly During my term of office, I also designed and executed a 120 square metre work of embroidery and bead work exhibited at the Mpumalanga Legislature. Mpumalangas story is represented in a 24 panel embroidered and beaded panorama, each panel 3.2m high, mounted in the chamber of the legislature.

This large work was conceived and designed by myself and stitched by 30 women from Ekulendeni and 30 women from Kwaggafontein.

The artwork marries the two major cultural textile streams, demonstrating the best of Swazi fabric tradition with Ndebele beading tradition.

The work is testimony to the artistic skill, enthusiasm, dedication and joyous spirit with which it was created. Together, women threaded a new identity for the people of Mpumalanga, integrating not only a multi ethnic chronicle, but also and inclusive healing ethic.

In an honest reflection of our past, they succeeded to embrace inclusively our historic, colonial, apartheid and liberation struggle, to create new foundations for all people of South Africa.

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John Anthony Boerma

Selected Works

The latest work from this artist.

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