This is a picture heavy post.
On Sunday we went to Robben Island with a group from work. It was my second visit. I took a Brazilian tour group there last month, but it was the first time for Gorgeous Man and, surprisingly for many of the South African staff members.
We left the dock at 9am and this was the view of Table Mountain
Pretty impressive. The sea was very calm and after about half an hour we were insight of the island.
This is the village side of the island. The only people who live on the island now are those that work at the museum – about 150 people. There is one shop and a primary school. In one of those twists of generosity and forgiveness that often stun me about this country there are former wardens and former prisoners now living and working here side by side.
The tour itself is very managed and there is no time to wander on your own and absorb the spirit of the place. When we first arrived we were loaded onto a bus – they are still using the same buses that once transported the prisoners around the island – and given a guided tour. This time our guide was an ex-prisoner.
Robben Island has been a prison since the time of the Dutch, dissidents from Java were sent there in the late 1600s and it served as a leper colony until 1931. The bus takes visitors past all of these sites and through the limestone quarry where Mandela and the others cut rocks and planned for the future of the country.
In our group we had many people from neighbouring African nations, and I was incredibly touched by our guide who thanked them for the help that there countries had given during the struggle years.
The prison was quite an experience. We were taken through by another former prisoner.
This is the courtyard
We also got to see Mandela’s cell
The blankets had to be kept folded like that during the day, failure to do so meant that the prisoner would be punished by solitary confinement without food for 7 days. The tin in the corner was used for a toilet and the prisoners had to empty it each morning.
The prisoners made a master key to the cells and they used it to smuggle food to those who were in solitary.
Section A is interactive, visitors can enter the cells and there are pictures of the prisoner who occupied the cell, their story and some mementoes of their time there. One gentleman made this
a chess set. Possibly the saddest thing was one of the cells where the locker was empty and on the wall was the statement. “I don’t have anything the guard in charge (gives the name) was hard and he confiscated the things I wanted to keep as mementoes”. It’s the sheer pettiness of apartheid that continues to strike me.
One of the most impressive things about Robben Island though is the mood of forgiveness and reconciliation – this has not permeated throughout the society, but the intention is there and this is one of the things that makes this nation unique.
We had a really good trip and the weather was perfect for it. I did lots of knitting in the car on the way there and back, but didn’t take it onto the island.
My frustration this week is that I have not been able to find this month’s copy of Australian Patchwork and Quilters magazine in ANY of our local newsagents. It’s been out a week and they are all sold out because the agents only stock one or two copies “because they don’t sell”. The fact that they are sold out in a week and you have customers asking for it doesn’t give you a clue that there may be a larger demand than you think?
It’s guild meeting next week, I’ll ask there.