|Sightseeing in South Africa
Robben Island, South Africa
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Xhosa Chiefs imprisoned during mid-19th century
People lived on Robben Island many thousands of years ago, when the sea
channel between the Island and the Cape mainland was not covered with water.
Since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-1600s, Robben Island has been
used primarily as a prison.
Indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British
settler soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists, including South
Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela and the founding
leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, were all
imprisoned on the Island.
Today, however, Robben Island also tells us about victory over Apartheid and
other human rights abuses: 'the indestructibility of the spirit of resistance against
colonialism, injustice and oppression'. Overcoming opposition from the prison
authorities, prisoners on the Island after the 1960s were able to organise sporting
events, political debates and educational programmes, and to assert their right
to be treated as human beings, with dignity and equality. They were able to help
the country establish the foundations of our modern democracy. The image we
have of the Island today is as a place of oppression, as well as a place of triumph.
Robben Island has not only been used as a prison. It was a training and defence
station in World War II (1939-1945) and a hospital for leprosy patients, and the
mentally and chronically ill (1846-1931). In the 1840s, Robben Island was chosen
for a hospital because it was both secure (isolating dangerous cases) and healthy
(providing a good environment for cure). During this time, political and
common-law prisoners were still kept on the Island. As there was no cure and little
effective treatment available for leprosy, mental illness and other chronic
illnesses in the 1800s, Robben Island was a kind of prison for the hospital patients
Since 1997 it has been a museum. The museum is a dynamic institution, which acts
as a focal point of South African heritage. It runs educational programmes for
schools, youths and adults, facilitates tourism development, conducts ongoing
research related to the Island and fulfils an archiving function. Source: Robben
Check out www.robben-island.org.za for more info.
For bookings: (0)21 413 4200
Robben Island Museum:
Ticket sales - www.robben-island.org.za/tickets.asp
Tours - www.robben-island.org.za/departments/tours/tours.asp
|"The tragedy of Africa, in racial and political terms [has been] concentrated in the southern tip of the
continent - in South Africa, Namibia, and, in a special sense, Robben Island."
- Oliver Tambo
|“Today when I look at Robben Island, I see it as a
celebration of the struggle and a symbol of the
finest qualities of the human spirit, rather than as a
monument to the brutal tyranny and oppression of
apartheid. It is true that Robben Island was once a
place of darkness, but out of that darkness has
come a wonderful brightness, a light so powerful
that it could not be hidden behind prison walls… '
Nelson Mandela spent more than 25 years imprioned on Robben
Island. This is a picture tribute to the island.
If you are interested in visting Robben Island for more information
go to www.robben-island.org.za
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