fredag 28. januar 2011
Robben Island was a prison for political prisoners from the period between the 17th to the 20th centuries. The prison was first taken in use by the Dutch settlers that are the ancestors of the white minority in South Africa today. The name Robben Island is Dutch for Seal Island, and the island is only a few meters above sea level caused by an ancient erosion event.
The prison has been the home to many South African politicians that have fought for the South African people’s rights.
Among those prisoners were Nelson Mandela and the current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. They fought against the Apartheid regime in South Africa, and Nelson Mandela was the first black president in the country. Before the Island was used as a home for prisoners during the Apartheid, it was the base for a colony by the Dutch settlers. During the World War Two the island was the first point of defence against an attack on Table Bay. Right before the war it was considered that the island should be made into a holiday resort, but this did not happen. It was reserved for military use and later a maximum security prison.
Robben Island is about 12 km outside the coast of South Africa and Cape Town. Totally separated from the rest of the world these prisoners sat in small cells for years without any contact with their families. The reality at the island where long days with manual labour when they were not sitting alone in their cells. Many of the prisoners became blind after working long days outside with white metamorphic rocks that reflected sunlight.
Today Robben Island represent something else than it did 30 years ago. Those who spent decades there fought for freedom, democracy and equality for their people. That is what the prison and the island itself stands for today. We can find Robben Island as one of the places on UNESCO’s World Heritage List among many other unique places all over the world. Today there is a museum on the island where the prison used to be, and they have kept it all authentic. It is possible to visit Nelson Mandela’s cell and see what condition these prisoners lived under for several years.