Throwback Thursday; Ingrid Jonker.

Written by Wanda Hartzenberg

Here is a Youtube link on Jonker.

Throwback Thursday hero to some, villain to others - Ingrid Jonker

Ingrid Jonker, a renowned South African poet, was born on September 19, 1933, in Douglas, a small town in the Northern Cape. Due to her parents’ divorce, she grew up with her mother and sister. Unfortunately, she took her own life in 1965.

Coming from a literary family, Ingrid Jonker’s father, Abraham Jonker, was a well-known writer and editor, and her uncle, W.E.G Louw, was also a prominent Afrikaans poet.

Abraham Jonker played a significant role in shaping Ingrid’s literary aspirations and introduced her to the world of poetry from a young age. His influence can be seen in her early interest in writing and her eventual career as a poet.

At the age of 23, Jonker published “Onvlugting” (Escape) in 1956, receiving critical acclaim and establishing herself as a promising young poet.

She was actively involved in political activism, particularly against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Her work often reflected her opposition to racial segregation and social injustice. While this brought her acclaim from some, it also led to her being shunned by many white South Africans, especially due to her extramarital affair, which added fuel to the fire of the conservative white nation.

Jonker had a tumultuous relationship with the famous South African writer AndrĂ© Brink. Their affair, which took place during periods when they were both married, was marked by intense passion and frequent conflicts. This relationship was a significant factor in the conservative faction within South Africa’s dislike of her and her work.

Despite her short life, Jonker received several awards and accolades for her poetry. In 1963, she won the prestigious Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel Prize for her collection “Rook en Oker” (Smoke and Ochre).

Her iconic poem “Die Kind” (The Child), written in 1961, was famously read by Nelson Mandela during his address to the South African Parliament on February 17, 1994. This occasion marked Mandela’s inauguration as the first democratically elected President of South Africa. Mandela’s decision to include Jonker’s poem in his speech was a powerful symbol of reconciliation and unity in post-apartheid South Africa. By reciting this poem, Mandela sought to acknowledge the injustices of the past and emphasize the need for healing and understanding in the new era of democracy. The inclusion of Jonker’s poem in Mandela’s speech brought her work to a wider audience and solidified her status as an influential poet in South African literature.

The Child as read by Nelson Mandela

Ingrid Jonker’s life was tragically cut short when she took her own life on July 19, 1965, at the age of 31. Her death shocked the literary community and left a lasting impact on South African literature.

Jonker’s work gained even more recognition after her death. Her poetry continued to resonate with readers, and her legacy as a fearless poet and anti-apartheid activist grew over time.

Her poetry has had a profound influence on South African literature and continues to inspire generations of poets. It explores themes of love, loss, identity, and social justice, making her an enduring figure in the country’s literary landscape. Her works have also had an impact on the music industry, with several South African musicians, such as Laurinda Hofmeyr, Chris Chameleon, David Kramer, and Stef Bos, incorporating her poems into their music.

Some of Ingrid Jonker’s notable works include her debut poetry collection “Ontvlugting” (Escape, 1956), which established her as a promising young poet. Her collection “Rook en Oker” (Smoke and Ochre, 1963) won the Afrikaanse Pers-Boekhandel Prize and is considered one of her most significant works. “Kantelson” (Side of the Road, 1966), published posthumously, includes some of her final poems and reflects her personal struggles and political convictions. The bilingual collection “Black Butterflies: Selected Poems” (2007), edited by AndrĂ© Brink and Antjie Krog, introduced Jonker’s work to an international audience and contributed to her posthumous recognition. Additionally, her individual poems, such as “Die Kind” (The Child), “Bitterbessie Dagbreek” (Bitter Berries Dawn), and “Ek Herhaal Jou” (I Repeat You), have become iconic in South African literature, celebrated for their powerful imagery and emotional impact.