A Fitting Tribute

Uys Krige's Tribute: Her voice will still be heard...

This is the tribute which Afrikaans poet and author, Uys Krige, had intended to pay at the graveside to the late Ingrid Jonker:

"The most important thing about a poet is his work. The work, of course, is at the same time the man. So although there was so much one loved in Ingrid Jonker as a human being, I only want to say a few things about her work.

"The best of her poems I have always thought absolutely first rate. And one shouldn't give higher praise to a contemporary poet than that, since it is for time and time alone to select at its infinite leisure, the final adjectives, give the ultimate judgment.

"Ingrid had something of her own, peculiarly her own, her own distance individuality and personality. And it is this individual tone, this personal voice that marks the true poet. The best poems of Ingrid you recognise almost at once. And they keep on singing in your mind or echoing in your consciousness. For Ingrid was a real lyrical poet - of a freshness, a pristineness and a purity and also of a gaiety, a humour, that were again particularly her own.

She had a most delicate ear which enabled her to write several of the best poems in free verse in our literature.

"She had a most delicate ear which enabled her to write several of the best poems in free verse in our literature. And she had a wonderful gift of assimilation. She took freely from the modern French, Spanish, South American and Dutch poets.

"But she always gave back freely something quite her own. Her 'modernity' was a compulsion, a real need, not just mere experiment for experiment's sake, a jumping on the bandwagon with the boys, or a superficial exploitation of the rag, tag and bobtail of European poetic acquisitions during the past 40 or 50 years. That is why I consider her by far our most successful poet in the modern idiom.

"Her children's poems are almost without exception exquisite. Some of them I consider the best in our literature, much as I have always liked A.G. Visser's poems for children.

"It was natural for Ingrid to write so beautifully for children (and for adults) since she had all the poetry, all the capacity for wonder of the child in her; yes, she was in many ways as innocent and sensitive as a child and, alas, as vulnerable.

"Her very best poems are, in my considered judgment, among the finest written in South Africa since the war. She ends one of them, 'Korreltjie Sand', with these words (I am quoting her in my literal, inadequate translation):

"'Carpenter build me a coffin,

"Prepare myself for the nothing,

"Grain, little grain, is my word,

"Little grain of nothing my death.'

"Yes, the poet in her quiet, almost shy way, is right, quite right. In a sense her death is a little grain of nothing. For with her words she has exorcised death.

"Her voice will be heard by us for a long, long time beyond her grave."

- "Uys Krige's tribute", Sunday Times, July 25, 1965


back to the Ingrid Jonker memorial page

"She was both a poet and a South African. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life."
Nelson Mandela on Ingrid Jonker
Ingrid Jonker
Picture: © National Afrikaans Literary Museum


Poetry as historical source

In this lesson plan, learners will be able to see that poetry was used as a weapon against the apartheid state, as well as a way of looking forward to a time of freedom and peace. Poetry can tell us a great deal about the personal and political feelings of people in the past.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
A selection of images from Ingrid Jonker’s short life.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Photographs of the memorial to Ingrid Jonker near the beach at Gordon’s Bay.
Audio Archive
Ingrid Jonker reads one of her poems for a 1965 Springbok radio recording. In Afrikaans.
Audio Documentary
Listen to Ingrid Jonker’s biographer, Petrovna Metelerkamp, and other friends talk about Ingrid’s life.
A 360° view of the sculpture on Beach Road in Gordon's Bay.
A Tribute to Ingrid Jonker
In his inaugural address to Parliament in May 1994, President Nelson Mandela read Ingrid Jonker’s poem, "The Child"