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Author Focus

I.W. vd Merwe Boerneef
Biographical info

Izak Wilhelmus van der Merwe, who published under the name Boerneef, was born on 11 May 1897 on the farm Boplaas near Ceres. He attended school in Ceres and later studied at the University of Cape Town, where he completed a Masters and a B.Ed. Degree. After graduating, he became a teacher at the South African College High School (SACS).

Between 1922 and 1961 he was a lecturer and later a professor in Afrikaans and Dutch at the University of Cape Town.

Boerneef died on 2 July 1967 in Cape Town. The following year he was posthumously awarded the Hertzog Prize for poetry.

Boerneef was inextricably connected to his heartland, with charming colloquial names such as the Kro, the Kamdebo, Koorsteenberg and Katbakkies, Sikketaarskloof, Soebatsfontein, Speserykloof. As a young writer he wrote mostly short stories and prose, and only started focusing on poetry at the age of 61. He was well known for his poems which contrasted city and farm, as well as for his use of “Karoo Afrikaans”. He referred to his poetry as “volkspoësie” (“poetry for the people”).

Did you know?

· Boerneef, along with D.B. Bosman and later L.W. Hiemstra, created the first English-Afrikaans Dictionary. It was first published in 1931.
· The musician Louis van Rensburg created the song “Voshaarnooi” by using three of Boerneef’s poems as the lyrics. The song became popular as the theme song for the television drama Ballade vir ’n enkeling.
· The composer Pieter de Villiers set other well known poems by Boerneef to music, like “Die berggans het ’n veer laat val” and “Aandblom is ’n witblom”. This was an important addition to the repertoire of Afrikaans lieder, and a favourite of the world famous South African soprano Mimi Coertse.

Awards and honours

Hertzog Prize for poetry (1968)


1938 Boplaas, Nasionale Pers
1938 Pensie, Nasionale Pers
1938 Van my kontrei, Nasionale Pers
1941 Stad en land, Nasionale Pers
1947 Sketsboek, Nasionale Boekhandel
1948 Van my kinderdae, Nasionale Pers
1956 Teen die helling, Nasionale Boekhandel
1958 Krokos, Nasionale Boekhandel
1959 Ghaap en kambro, Nasionale Boekhandel
1962 Mallemole, Nasionale Boekhandel
1964 Palissandryne, Nasionale Boekhandel
1967 Op die flottina, Nasionale Boekhandel
1967 Teen die helling, Nasionale Boekhandel
1968 En Tafelberg praat Krotaal, ’n keur uit die verse van Boerneef, Nasionale Boekhandel
1976 Sesde hoepel, 83 ongepubliseerde gedigte van Boerneef, compiled by F.I.J. van Rensburg, Tafelberg
1977 Versamelde poësie, Tafelberg
1979 Versamelde prosa, edited and introduction by Merwe Scholtz, Tafelberg
1998 Die berggans het ’n veer laat val: ’n keur uit sy prosa en poësie, compiled by Wium van Zyl, Tafelberg