Cover art by Octavia Roodt.

Ons Klyntji is a South African zine published in both Afrikaans and English. The 2023 issue of the zine is out and it is absolutely stunning. Read on to find out about the history and significance of this zine.

Ons Klyntji (the name translates to “Our Little One”) is a bilingual zine run by a collective of editors. It includes poems, short stories, and graphics (visual art like photos and illustrations) in each issue. Although it is largely bilingual, at times they also publish other languages such as Dutch, Polish, and other South African languages like Sesotho.

Ons Klyntji was originally founded in 1896 by the early pioneers of the Afrikaans language in South Africa, to promote Afrikaans as a written language and to give the language a space in the political landscape of the time. However, the zine’s real origins are in the 1990s, when alternative singer-songwriter and author Koos Kombuis resurrected the title in an ironic way and created a true zine, home-made, stapled and stuck together. The zine featured some of his own writing as well as other alternative voices of the time, often humorous and satirical.

We got the chance to chat with current co-editor Toast Coetzer, who reported coming across the zine in the late 1990s when he got published there:

Kombuis would sell these A5-sized zines at this shows and this is how myself and Erns Grundling discovered it. We were both students in the late 1990s in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, and big Koos Kombuis fans. We sent our own early poems to Ons Klyntji and got a real kick out of being published in the zine. Kombuis must have recognised how keen we were and by about 2000 asked whether Erns and I wanted to take over the zine since he wanted to move on to other projects.

Since 2000 Erns and I ran the zine out of our own back pockets, at first in the same A5 format. It usually appeared once a year, sometimes twice (Kombuis was more prolific and published it quarterly) – once we even brought it out with a compilation CD featuring underground South African music. The title also became bilingual rather than just being Afrikaans, which opened it up to a bigger audience. Some years in the late 2000s we skipped because we didn’t have the cash to print the zine, or simply because we didn’t have the time to do the project.

Howevet, the humble beginnings of Ons Klyntji soon gave way to success. In 2010, they received support from South Africa’s biggest music festival at the time, Oppikoppi. They footed the zine’s printing bill and Coetzer and Grundling printed 1000 copies, much more than the usual run of 250 or so. They also changed the format to a smaller, more compact A6 size so that festival-goers could slip the zine into their pockets. This is the current format of the zine, capped at 152 pages and printed in black & white.

For the 2023 issue of the zine, the editors were Toast Coetzer, Joe Botha, Erns Grundling, Elodi Troskie, Elzanne Coetzee, Jaco du Plooy, Dara Kell, Leanne Rencken, Mechiel Boshoff, Natasha Harmse, Willow Ruby and Francois Lion-Cachet. Layout artist Lara Venter designed the zine, while the cover art was done by Octavia Roodt.

Ons Klyntji 2023 contains contributions from 114 writers and artists, most from South Africa, but also from Mozambique, the Netherlands, Finland and Namibia. Coetzer said there is no set theme for each issue, but this year’s zine is definitely leaning toward the environment:

We never really have a set theme but advise contributors to follow their hearts and write about what matters to them right now. This way, the zine becomes a kind of “annual” reflecting topics and themes that naturally come to the fore. For the 2023 issue, for example, an environmental theme emerged via a handful of poems, like “Green growing wilderness” by Cheryl Traub Adler and “Rooigety” (“Red Tide”) by Theresa Postma. But there were also quirky digs at typically South African things, like load-shedding (regular power-cuts / blackouts we have because of the failings of our national electricity supplier, Eskom) in “Buddy Eskom” by Jeannie Wallace McKeown, or the weird legacy of Spur (a local family restaurant chain inspired by Native American iconography), in Matthew Barge’s funny short feature “Memories are like spinach”.

Elsewhere, Puno Selesho wrote about book lovers, Lilitha Boco about her estranged father, Abigail George about emotional pain and how to deal with it, Ian Bell about a luthier, Kleinboer about the daily grind, Danie Marais about money, Fred de Vries about the importance of the early Koos Kombuis album “Niemandsland & Beyond”, Zian Viviers about being gay in a conservative society, Hermien de Vos about a seahorse, Grant Jefthas about advice his grandma gave him, Curtley Jones about freedom, Ronesa Cloete about a Nama woman, Suzy Bell-Russell about the loss of her husband, Neo Mehlomakulu about a tango with Satan, and so on.

Coetzer added that Ons Klyntji provides a great platform for poets, short story writers, photographers, and illustrators to share their work in an informal and non-academic way, which can open the doors to more opportunities:

Ons Klyntji is not really a literary journal. We publish “serious” poems, sure, but also just tongue-in-cheek and fun stuff which gives us a laugh. Ons Klyntji is often the place where new voices get published for the first time – some of which have gone on to become established poets on the local scene, with their own anthologies.

Ons Klyntji gives emerging poets and writers recognition, which helps them build confidence in their creative skill. We applaud the zine for doing such a great job publishing bilingually and encouraging fresh talent for the past couple of years!

Check out zine PDFs for the years 2016-2020 here. 2021-23 PDFs will be added soon.

If you’d like to order a hard copy, email [email protected] (where you can also submit creative material as well). Zines are sold for R50 (USD $3) each, excluding postage. Overseas airmail costs USD $18-30.

Find more info about the 2023 issue here.