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Biography of Ingrid JONKER

South Africa > Literature : Ingrid JONKER

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Born on 19/09/1933 (format : day/month/year)

Biography :

Ingrid Jonker born (19 September 1933 - 19 July 1965) was a South African poet. Although she wrote in Afrikaans, her poems have been widely translated into other languages. Ingrid Jonker has reached iconic status in South Africa and is often called the South African Sylvia Plath, owing to the intensity of her work and the tragic course of her turbulent life. Her work has also been compared to that of Anne Sexton. During the night of 19 July 1965, Jonker went to the beach at Three Anchor Bay in Cape Town where she walked into the sea and committed suicide by drowning.

Former President Nelson Mandela, in commenting on Jonker’s poem  (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 was born on a farm near Kimberley in South Afrika on 19th September 1933. Her parents seperated before her birth and she (and her mother and sister) lived with grandparents who moved to another farm near Cape Town. her grandmother died in 1938 and her mother ded in 1943 when Ingrid was still only 10. After her mother's death she and her sister lived with her father and his third wife but relations with their children were not harmonoious.

She produced her first collection of Afrikaans poems, entitled Na die somer (After the summer) at the age of sixteen. Despite the fact that several publishers were interested in her work, she was advised to wait before going into print and her first book of poems Ontvlugting (Escape) was not published until 1956, the year she married Poeter Venter. Her daughter Simone was born the following year.
Ingrid's father was a member of the South African Parliament and one of his jobs gave him responsibility for the censorship of publications and entertainments. Ingrid did not agree with his policies on this and the subsequent conflict and stress caused a breakdown which involved her spending time in Valkenberg psychiatric clinic in 1961.
She died at Three Anchor Bay near Cape Town by deliberately walking into the sea to drown herself. Her father, upon hearing of Ingrid's death is reported as saying: "They can throw her back into the sea for all I care".
Perhaps the greatest tribute to her came in 1994 When Nelson Mandela read her poem "The Child"

Last update : 11/06/2015

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