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Ingrid Jonker

Poet under Apartheid

Louise Viljoen

Publication Year: 2013

Nelson Mandela brought the poetry of Ingrid Jonker to the attention of South Africa and the wider world when he read her poem “Die kind” (The Child) at the opening of South Africa’s first democratic parliament on May 24, 1994. Though Jonker was already a significant figure in South African literary circles, Mandela’s reference contributed to a revival of interest in Jonker and her work that continues to this day.

Viljoen’s biography illuminates the brief and dramatic life of Jonker, who created a literary oeuvre — as searing in its intensity as it is brief — before taking her own life at the age of thirty-one. Jonker wrote against a background of escalating apartheid laws, violent repression of black political activists, and the banning of the African National Congress and the Pan Africanist Congress. Viljoen tells the story of Ingrid Jonker in the political and cultural context of her time, provides sensitive insights into her poetry, and considers the reasons for the enduring fascination with her life and death.

Her writings, her association with bohemian literary circles, and her identification with the oppressed brought her into conflict with her father, a politician in the white ruling party, and with other authority figures from her Afrikaner background. Her life and work demonstrate the difficulty and importance of artistic endeavor in a place of terrible conflict.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Series: Ohio Short Histories of Africa


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pp. 2-5


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pp. 6-7

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pp. 7-8

I gratefully acknowledge the help of the following people in writing this book:
Petrovna Metelerkamp for giving freely of information and advice; ...

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1: Writing Ingrid Jonker

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pp. 9-15

When Ingrid Jonker took her own life by walking into the sea at Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town on 19 July 1965 at the age of 31, she became the stuff of legend and rumour. Looking back on ...

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2: Childhood and youth, 1933-1951

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pp. 16-31

The beginning was inauspicious. Ingrid Jonker was born on 19 September 1933 on a farm near Douglas in the Northern Cape where her mother Beatrice was staying with her ...

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3: Early adulthood, marriage and motherhood, 1952-1958

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pp. 32-54

That Ingrid did not get the opportunity to attend university is a recurrent theme in many of her friends’ recollections of her. Most of them blamed her father for depriving ...

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4: Seperation, divorce and a new relationship, 1959-1962

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pp. 55-78

Ingrid’s move to Johannesburg proved to be a rude awakening to the realities of life in South Africa for which the bohemian idyll of Clifton had not prepared ...

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5: Prize-winning poet, 1963-1964

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pp. 79-107

There is a tendency to emphasise Ingrid Jonker’s sexuality, her vulnerability, her artistic talent and emotional volatility to such a degree that her interest in the politics of the day ...

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6: Last days, 1965

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pp. 108-138

By the beginning of 1965 Ingrid thought that her relationship with André Brink was secure. It was in fact the one thing that gave her some hope in an otherwise bleak start to the...

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7: Afterlife

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pp. 139-153

On 30 July 1965 Jack wrote in his diary that Ingrid had made a will in which she appointed him her executor. Although this will was invalid because there were no witnesses, Jack was ...


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pp. 154-162


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pp. 163-166

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444603
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821420485

Page Count: 154
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Ohio Short Histories of Africa