Monday, July 22, 2013

Robben Island

Robben Island.
Scott, our friend, Mzukizi, and I visited Robben Island about two weeks before PResident Obama and Michelle did. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years or the crime of being a member of the ANC (African National Congress) and protesting against the system of Apartheid. 18 of those years were spent at Robben Island, working in the stone quarry and in this cell.

Now, at 95 years of age, he has become an international icon of peace, hope, and the fight against oppression everywhere. 


Here is Scott in the stone quarry where the inmates worked. Note the small cave in front of Scott and the group? In that cave, Nelson Mandela and other imprisoned ANC members would meet or leave each other messages.  I guess you can say that small cave is partly responsible for the overthrow of the Apartheid government!

Here are some more pictures. I tried and tried to include photos of the Obamas in the same places, or at least links, and this blog crashed every time. So I guess if you want to see the Preisdent and Michelle in the same places we were (only two weeks later), you'll have to google Obama in South Africa or Obama at Robben Island.


 This is the view of the the view of the bay from Robben Island.
 Mzukizi contemplating the cells, where names, pictures, and statements from the inmates were posted.
 Mzukizi and me on the boatride from the island. He was not a big fan of the rough-water ride.
 Scott and Mzukizi outside Robert Sobukwe's house. Sobukwe died in solitary confinement. He was considered one of the most dangerous brilliant minds of the resistance to Apartheid, so died in prison without ever having contact with any of his compatriots. He is immortalized in the book, How Can Man Die Better, by Benjamin Pogrund. This one has moved high on my list of "To reads."
Mzukizi and Scott as we prepare to leave the island.
A last view from the bay, looking back at Robben island.

Last reflection: Scott and I work amazingly well together. Maybe we're too much alike (on Africa time even when we're in Minnesota, not exactly the most organized folks in the world, etc.), but we made very compatible group leaders and research-fellow travelers. 

Students, take note: do as we say, not as we DO. We were admonished on the big-group tour of the prison to STAY together. Um, suffice it to say that we did not follow directions. The group exited the building where Mandela's cell was, and Scott looked at me and said, "Come on!" We ran back into the building or we would never have gotten any photos of Mandela's cell. We had the place to ourselves...for a bit. We finally got to "feel" the place and take some pictures. When we went back outside, we had lost our group. Another group joined us, however, and the new tour guide took us INTO the stone quarry (ours hadn't, and Scott had never been there on his four previous tours), and also took us into Robert Sobukwe's house. Nether of us had heard of Sobukwe before. 

Serendipity. All of our trip was laced with happy serendipity. Things would go wrong, and every single bad thing led to something better than we could have planned or anticipated. Getting lost and joining a new group was only one tiny example of that on this trip. And did I mention that Mzukizi, who has lived in the Cape Town Area his whole life had never been to Robben Island? It was one more magical picece of an unbelievable month in South Africa.

"We are not African because we live in Africa. We are African because Africa lives in us." --AfroVibe

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