During the South African apartheid period lived the complex troubled soul of young Ingrid Jonker. A poet she was, but also a carefree spirit in turmoil. This turmoil turned her thoughts into the words she is remembered for. Although she wrote in afrikaans, her work has been translated craftily into english and then some.
Amidst her acclaimed love affair with the older man Jack Cope, she dabbled in many other lovers, had the abortion of Jack’s love child, traveled the world, witnessed the murderous legacy of apartheid events, struggled to be a mother to her young daughter Simone and still managed to document her thoughts in poetry that became published, which turned her relationship with her politician father Abraham Jonker from already frail to him disowning her.
Ingrid commited suicide on the night of 19 July 1965 on the Three Anchor Bay beach in Cape Town…
Nelson Mandela read her poem, “Die kind (wat doodgeskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga)” (“The child (who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga)”), in Afrikaans, during his address at the opening of the first democratic parliament on May 24, 1994. This was but one of her many well known works. She is also honored by the Ingrid Jonker Prize insituted by her friends for the best written afrikaans or english poetry.
And what better way to truly go down in history than to have a movie made depicting your life. Black Butterflies is a Dutch production that portrays Ingrid Jonker as she was known to be.
“The Child” by Ingrid Jonker
The child lifts his fists against his mother
Who shouts Afrika ! shouts the breath
Of freedom and the veld
In the locations of the cordoned heart
The child lifts his fists against his father
in the march of the generations
who shouts Afrika ! shout the breath
of righteousness and blood
in the streets of his embattled pride
The child is not dead not at Langa nor at Nyanga
not at Orlando nor at Sharpeville
nor at the police station at Philippi
where he lies with a bullet through his brain
The child is the dark shadow of the soldiers
on guard with rifles Saracens and batons
the child is present at all assemblies and law-givings
the child peers through the windows of houses and into the hearts of mothers
this child who just wanted to play in the sun at Nyanga is everywhere
the child grown to a man treks through all Africa
the child grown into a giant journeys through the whole world
Without a pass
Her poetry rightly provoking, is what thorws her into South African history and there she will remain.