Saturday, January 21, 2012

My bookshelf - Ingrid Jonker

Another book that has definitely earned a place on my bookshelf - Ingrid Jonker's poems. She was a South African poet who wrote in Afrikaans. The book contains her poems in Afrikaans and a translated version in Dutch. The language Afrikaans developed from 17th century Dutch dialects and a huge part of the vocabulary is of Dutch origin. With some practice, it is easy to understand.

Ingrid Jonker had a sad life, she suffered from severe depression and she committed suicide at the age of 31.
On May 24 1994, almost 30 years later, Nelson Mandela opened the first democratic Parliament of the new South Africa, and in his speech, he read Ingrid Jonker's poem "Die Kind (The Child)", which revived interest in the life and work of Ingrid Jonker.


The child who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga
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 who was shot dead by soldiers at Nyanga

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


Listen here to the poem in Afrikaans read by Ingrid herself. I love the melody of Afrikaans. The sound of the language is so much softer than Dutch.

A number of her poems have been set to music by South African musicians. Listen here for the beautiful African version of "Ontvlugting" ("Escape").

Last year a movie was released (in English) about Ingrid's life "Black butterflies". The main character is played by the Dutch actress Carice van Houten. I didn't see the movie yet, but I ordered the dvd.