With dark flowing hair, looks to die for and style some would kill for, illustrator Miné Jonker must be the most gorgeous, multifaceted, self-confessed tomboy I have ever met. Finally (sigh of relief), an illustrator of the female kind. A rose amongst thorns, a veritable pearl amongst mussels… sorry boys. By Jenna Mervis

Miné has been drawing for as long as she can remember. ‘In standard one, I gave a speech saying that I would be a book illustrator when I grew up,’ she tells. ‘I never made the decision to go into art, it was just something I was always going to do.’ After matriculating at Pro Arte in Pretoria, a severe case of wanderlust took her to Europe, Asia and India. This was to prove a kind of cultural injection to inspire greatness. After three years, Miné settled in Cape Town. She began modelling, acting and making clothes to support herself. In her spare time, she would dredge Cape Town for opportunities to illustrate.

‘I never made the decision to go into art, it was just something I was always going to do’

‘It was difficult to break into the industry,’ remembers Miné. ‘I was spreading myself too thin and not developing in the field I was most passionate about – illustration – so I began phasing out the other things one by one.’ While surfing the Internet, Miné stumbled across a small group of Stellenbosch-produced illustrators working in Cape Town. Armed with her portfolio and a bag of biscuits, Miné went to meet the Am I Collective.

‘I bribed them with cookies! One of the guys told me much later that when he first met me, he had thought I was just a pretty face who probably drew things like pretty fish – until he opened my portfolio. The irony is that the first image I sent them was of a fish leaping out of the water.’ On the one hand, Miné’s work is distinctively Art Nouveau, with its incorporation of romanticism and organic, decorative line work. Her femininity injects a sensuality into her works that is inspired by the willowy, erotic drawings of Audrey Kawasaki. On the other hand, however, this current of femininity is countered by caustic humour, tomboy sensibility, a fascination with undercurrents of society and, yes, paint peeling off walls. ‘It reminds me of antiquity,’ she explains, ‘and what has come before.’

This palimpsest is reflected in the pages of her scrap-book diaries that were exhibited at both the Verstikland Exhibition at the Rust-en-Vrede art gallery with Am I Collective, as well as The R100 Show at The Bin gallery. Each page is a collation of various keepsake elements from her travels, resonating with emotion and a sense of place and identity. Ranging from a self-portrait love letter from Hong Kong, to a page of her father’s passport photographs spanning 40 years, these are highly personal and revealing.

Then there’s ‘Cream’. It’s a Freehand and Photoshop illustration of a transvestite done in collaboration with Kronk – provocative bordering on the lewd.

I’m fascinated by transvestites. I think it is their ugly prettiness which draws me in.

I’m also weirdly drawn to deformities and diseases. This is not really out of character – it is simply an element of my skurwe sense of humour.’ Pretty fish indeed.


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Part 2

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