Jonker’s wild spirit captured

2011-10-22 00:00

AMONG the new movies in Durban this week is the Dutch-made Black Butterflies, which tells the story of one of South Africa’s most revered poets, Ingrid Jonker.

Set in turbulent 1960s Apartheid South Africa, Black Butterflies, which premiered at the Durban International Film Festival (DIFF) earlier this year, is revealed through Jonker’s brilliant writing and her relationships with her daughter, Simone, and other writers, including Jack Cope.

While Jonker’s fragile emotional and mental state ultimately led to her death by suicide, her work remains as a testament to her life and was even quoted by former president Nelson Mandela during his first address in the new South African parliament on May 24, 1994.

After reading from Jonker’s Die kind wat doodgeskiet is deur soldate by Nyanga (The child shot by soldiers at Nyanga) he described her as “an Afrikaner woman who transcended a particular experience and became a South African, an African and a citizen of the world … In the midst of despair, she celebrated hope. Confronted by death, she asserted the beauty of life.”

Simone Jonker believes the poem Mandela read and his speech made more people aware of her mother’s work. “There are people who have her poems tattooed on their backs, people who say that her poems mean more than the verses in the Bible and even those who say she speaks to them from the grave.”

That reading and speech also made Dutch producer Arry Voorsmit interested in Jonker.

“Then we saw a documentary on Dutch television and came to realise how special, how important, idiosyncratic, individual and unique she was,” Voorsmit said.

It took the producer another eight years to bring Black Butterflies to the screen, and thanks to its Cape locations, attention to detail and a script by South African Gregg Latter (Goodbye Bafana, Forgiveness), it is a stunning film.

To write it, Latter drew on Cope’s papers and journals, which are with Jonker’s at the National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown.

“Jack was the kind of guy who wrote a page a day. I sat there reading his inner most feelings about Ingrid — I couldn’t have had a better insight into her even if she had told me about herself.

“Here was a man trying to fathom her out, giving me complete access to the incredibly complicated wild spirit of Ingrid Jonker,” Latter said.

That spirit is captured in a seeringly honest performance by Carice van Houten and makes Black Butterlies well worth seeing.


Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

The City of Cape Town estimates #Dayzero will be in
138 Days

09 Jul 2018 (ESTIMATED DATE)

More information
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.