The advanced ideas inherent in Ingrid Jonker’s poems have made her a recognized literary figure internationally, with her poems being studied, translated and published in many languages including English, German, French, Dutch, Polish, Hindi and Zulu. The collected works of Jonker, including several short stories and a play, were published in 1975 and re-issued in 1983 and 1994.
Former President Nelson Mandela, in commenting on Jonker’s poem Die Kind (The Child), which he read out in full in his inaugural State of the Nation address to Parliament in May 1994, said, “… in this glorious vision, she instructs that our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child”. Of Jonker herself, Mandela said that: “She was both a poet and a South African. She was both an Afrikaner and an African. She was both an artist and a human being. In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life.”
Ingrid Jonker’s sensitive, humane and forward-looking perspectives have made her a literary icon of a whole new generation of Afrikaners and South Africans, who have re-discovered her relevance in a free and democratic South Africa.
Why, suddenly, to I talk about Ingrid Jonkers? Quite simply because up to now I had never heard of her and probably would go on that way were it not for the fact that my sister, Ceri, who has been an extra in a film about her life, told me about her and made me realise how ignorant I am of my home country’s artistic heritage. The playwright Athol Fugard I know because his plays have been produced extensively in the UK and I played in two productions of “A Lesson From Aloes”; firstly in Edinburgh and then in Liverpool. Was in fact asked to do it a third time, in Sheffield, but decided then that I wouldn’t do it. It was a wonderful experience but an emotionally draining play, particularly in Liverpool where I had the good fortune to work with a director I would have worked for any time any place (a rare phenomenon) and a wonderful actress. At one point during rehearsals, as I think I mention in my autobiography, Bill said, ‘For God’s sake, will you two stop being so generous with each other! But honestly we couldn’t help it. It is that kind of play and there was that rapport. Also in Leeds I took part in “Statements Under An Arrest Under The Immorality Act”, in which I took the small part of the policeman, but the sop to Cerberus was the first half of the evening when I read from Fugard’s diaries. I also directed “People Are Living There” at RADA. I know Mark Behr because I have read both his novels (maybe he’s written something since that I know not of) “Embrace” and “A Scent of Apples” but it is not surprising that I am so ignorant about South Africa having left in 1953 and only been back twice both for a short time and, meanwhile, there has been a lot of living to do elsewhere.
And, so annoying this Blog won’t go out right now because, for some reason, we’re off line! Hey-ho, how reliant we are on modern technology