January 11th 1990, I, along with millions of other people watched the release of Nelson Mandela from Robben Island. He had served 27 years of his prison term.
Past South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, alongside many other political prisoners, spent decades imprisoned during the apartheid era. Among those political prisoners was current South African President Jacob Zuma who was imprisoned there for ten years.
The day was perfect, hot and seamless. No wind and a clear sky and our mode of transport was a fast ferry that could carry 5 bus loads of visitors at a time.
For the many South Africans in our group I can only imagine the impact of visiting an icon like Robben Island that now symbolized the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Photos were taken in front of life size stark images on fences.
Many people died and never left after internment. Their spirits
overlooked the events of today.
This image is the entrance to the notorious 'quarry' where the prisoners worked breaking rocks. On a visit to the Island after his realease President Mandela broke away from the crowd an picked up a single rock and place it in this position. It symbolized the existence of a prisoner.
Others people did the same and this pile of rocks is testament to those who slaved, died and studied in this quarry.
There is a cave in the sandstone. A small cave where the inmates would take their meal. It provided shelter from the sun and wind, many an inmate continued their education whilst sharing food with their esteemed peers.
Our guide, an ex prisoner, shared his story with us. I didn't catch his name, his voice and presence were strong and passionate, his demeanor continued the fight for freedom as he led us around the compound.
I imagine he relives his experience as he speaks.
This photo captures the emotion in the group. For the children and some tourists it was an outing… however for some there was a deeper spiritual vision present.
I just used my camera to capture my feelings.
We left the Island with a small handful of understanding. I felt as though we were voyeurs to history floating around the edge of reality.
Our dinner was little more reflective and as we sat in a restaurant overlooking the waterfront, a lady sitting at the table behind me came over to visit.
She handed me a bracelet from her wrist. She said she noticed I wore a number of bracelets and would like to give me one that she had made..
It made my day.
The gift of a stranger
3 Comments Add yours
When I saw the barbed wire fence….I saw hearts across the top. For many years hearts wept behind those razor strands and on the other side too. A blessing to have have tears of pain and hopelessness turned to tears of joy and thanksgiving.
Charmayne. thanks for those thoughts… You’re right it’s not been an easy path and I don’t know the first thing about the politics of this country, but in some instances I think people are a little nicer to each other these days.
over the course of time and with some understanding the people of africa would have become more understanding and the sharp edges would have worn away as a river rock has lost it sharp edges and become smooth, round and more gentle….but the memories are still there to remind everyone….