#3 Robben Island

South Africa Travel Blog

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Imagine a place, where one could see the reflection of triumph of the human spirit. As quoted by Ahmed Kathrada (sentenced to Robben Island in June 1964)," While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument to our hardship and suffering. We would want Robben Island to be a monument...reflecting the triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil." Robben Island is a place, where people can learn from and acknowledge the history of our world. One could pay respect to people of our time that fought for freedom, in this case for human rights. Life for a prisoner on Robben Island was not easy, but life in the old South Africa was not so pleasant either. People of color were treated inhumanly, not permitted on the beaches, in pools, in movies or to practice their own traditions by order of law. The beautiful country of South Africa was segregated by classifications of skin and cultural background.

Robben Island might be considered Cape Town’s version of Alcatraz in SF. Situated 11km (7 miles) north of Cape Town harbor, Robben Island is the notorious island prison where thousands of political prisoners were incarcerated between 1961 and 1991 for campaigning against apartheid. Its most famous resident was Nelson Mandela, who referred to it as a 'harsh, iron-fisted outpost'. Used as a prison as far back as 1525, it has also housed the mentally ill and lepers; its long history as a place of cruelty and isolation has turned it into a worldwide symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over oppression. Since 1996, there has been a National Museum and cultural center on Robben Island, where visitors can see, among other things, the cell where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Some of the tour guides are former political prisoners, able to provide a personal testimony of the terrible conditions suffered by the inmates.

To go to this Island is still an experience of immense power. It is a cold, damp, and lonely island. No source of fresh water and barely any trees or plants. Very little communication could be achieved between the outside world and the inhabitants of Robben Island. The waters surrounding were famous for its stormy and icy conditions where many Great White sharks swam. The stormy weather conditions characteristic to the southern tip of Africa became known as the Cape Of Storms.

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