Ingrid Jonker

Literary Birthday – 19 September – Ingrid Jonker


Ingrid Jonker was born 19 September 1933, and died 19 July 1965

One of Ingrid Jonker’s most famous poems, The Child, was written after the 1960 Sharpeville Massacre. President Nelson Mandela read it during the opening of South Africa’s first democratic Parliament, in May 1994.

The Child by Ingrid Jonker 

The child is not dead
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

The face of love by Ingrid Jonker

Your face is the face of all the others
before you and after you and
your eyes calm as a blue
dawn breaking time on time
herdsman of the clouds
sentinel of white iridescent beauty
the landscape of your contesses mouth
that I have explored
keeps the secret of a smile
like small white villages beyond the
mountains
and your heartbeats the measure of
their ecstasy
There is no question of beginning
there is no question of possession
there is no question of death
face of my beloved
the face of love

Quote: ‘I know there are other things in life apart from love, but one has to have a basis to go out from. Without it, my whole wretched past lifts its dreadful head, and looks at me with that sad and wasted look which paralyses me with terror.’

Ingrid Jonker was a South African poet. She is often called the South African Sylvia Plath, because of the intensity of her work and the tragic course of her life. Estranged from her husband, she had affairs with two prominent South African writers, Jack Cope and Andre Brink, who translated her poems in this collection: Black Butterflies (Selected Poems). Brink refused to leave his wife for her. On 19 July 1965 she walked into the sea and committed suicide by drowning.

Source for Image

by Amanda Patterson