@Fest Comic art on the far side of Festival

Comic art on the far side of Festival

Diorgo Jonkers sits behind a trestle table of comic books, on the wrong end of High Street, waiting for people to come. A freelance videogame programmer by day, Jonkers, who grew up in Grahamstown and returned two years ago, is the man behind SA Comic Books @ The National Arts Festival, one of the more niche, unofficial events on offer this year.

He is also a part-time comic artist: Sector, a serialized anthology he contributed to – “An Illustrated Guide to the End of the World” – is one of the editions on display.

Diorgo Jonkers showcases and sells South African comics at 12 High Street. Photo: Greg Roxburgh.

Diorgo Jonkers showcases and sells South African comics at 12 High Street. Photo: Greg Roxburgh.

“I wanted to make comics more easily available,” he says. “They’re difficult to buy in South Africa. You usually only find them at speciality events.”

Jonkers is selling copies of thirteen local comic books on behalf of their artists, working towards a broader vision of setting up a wholesale distribution system for the industry.

“Next year I’ll set up somewhere more central,” he says. “I left my planning a bit late and couldn’t get a better venue.”

His premises, located a block from the High Street circle, are in a part of town that few people visit during Festival: the parking spots are vacant, the pavements strewn with trash. It feels remote – but the market at Cathedral Square, buzzing on Sunday morning, is less than 300 meters away.

The lower section of High Street once served as a busy conduit to the Grahamstown train station, which closed, after a long period of senescence, in 2009.

“It’s been quiet here, really,” says Jonkers. “But Saturday picked up. Nearly 30 people came through.”

His posters, widely distributed around town, draw an infrequent trickle of comic book aficionados and assorted wanderers to the store, which is set up in a Victorian building last used as a hair salon five months ago. (There are still washbasins with neck cut-outs affixed to the walls.)

Four groups visit while we talk: a couple who get awkward and leave instantly, two young men who ask loads of questions and purchase nine editions between them, an author selling “cool spiritual books”, and a second couple who buy a comic each.

“Comic books are quite underground,” Jonkers says. “You never see them advertised in the newspaper or on TV. People have to know where to find them.”


Kimon de Greef
Cue specialist writer

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