Yvonne Lorraine [van der Westhuizen] Engela (1934-2013) was a bilingual South African poet who grew up speaking Afrikaans as her first language, and although she had passed basic English at school, only began to master it after leaving school. Her earliest short fiction and poetry was written in Afrikaans (1953), with her first poetry in English only appearing in 1956.
In 1955 she married Theo Engela, who was also a gifted Afrikaans-speaking writer, who had been educated at an English-medium school. What is striking about Yvonne’s poetry is that she composed poems in Afrikaans AND English to an EQUAL standard, which is a rare thing indeed!
Yvonne Lorraine Engela is today a completely unknown South African poet, because she never actively pursued publication for any of her works on her own. She kept her poetry – some handwritten, some typed on manual typewriters – in a bottom drawer in her wardrobe until her death at the age of 79 on October 24, 2013. As a result, Yvonne’s works are completely new South African poems in Afrikaans and English, which have never been seen before.
After her death, her daughter Christina – herself an accomplished writer – found them, and began to type her mother’s poetry from her old, yellowed notebooks from more than half a century ago – and plans to release a collection of her poetry – after all, how many poets in South African history could write beautiful poetry in English AND in Afrikaans to an equal standard? Not many. In 2018, Christina published Yvonne’s Afrikaans and English poetry in two separate volumes, “Op Vreemde Weë” (April 8, 2018) and “When Day Is Done” (April 11, 2018).
There are 97 poems in Afrikaans, 81 in English – a total of 178 written between 1953 and 1972 in the family archive.
About Christina’s Parents