News / Africa

Mandela Legend Grew At Robben Island

Mandela Legacy Grew at Robben Islandi
X
June 24, 2013 7:00 PM
President Barack Obama is expected to visit Robben Island during his stop in South Africa. The island has a long history as a place to put political prisoners. But for most people these days, it's best known as the place that held South African activist, and later president, Nelson Mandela. VOA's Mariama Diallo takes a look at Robben Island.
Mariama Diallo
President Barack Obama is expected to visit Robben Island during his stop in South Africa.  The island has a long history as a place to put political prisoners.  But for most people these days, it's best known as the place that held one of the most famous prisoners of the 20th century - South African activist, and later president, Nelson Mandela.  

Robben Island is located in the southwestern part of South Africa, a 17-hour drive from Johannesburg and just a few kilometers offshore from Cape Town.  It's a tourist attraction now - but its history as a place of oppression goes back centuries.  Professor Sulayman Nyang is with the African studies department at Howard University.

“I think it’s a very important way of keeping the memory alive," said Nyang. "Museums play a big role in doing that.... Robben Island experience is one of hundreds if not thousands around the world where human beings are trying to preserve the memories, the images, the objects that underscore the human experience."

Robben Island was used to hold political prisoners as far back as the 1600's.  But its modern reputation dates primarily to South Africa's apartheid era.

Carol Thompson, from Northern Arizona University in the United States, was an anti-apartheid activist during the 1960s.

“Robben Island is a symbol of oppression and just tremendous suffering by everyone who's been incarcerated there," said Thompson.  

By everyone, Thompson means a long list of political activists - including Jacob Zuma, the current South African president; Govan Mbeki, father of former president Thabo Mbeki; and Walter Sizulu, a former African National Congress activist.

Christo Brand was posted at Robben Island as a prison warden in 1978.  Having come from a rural farming background, he says he didn’t know much about one of the prison’s most famous inmates - Nelson Mandela.

“After a month and a half working in Robben Island, one of my uncles asked: have you seen Mandela?  I said yes, he is just a normal prisoner like the others.  Somebody special for me was Walter Sizulu," said Brand.  

Mandela spent decades in prison cell number 46664.  He was jailed in 1964 - tried for treason and sabotage - and sentenced to life in prison.

Yet, as Christo Brand told- it, he rose above his surroundings.

“I asked Mandela one question: don’t you hate the people of South Africa, what they've done to you? He said to me, ‘Mr. Brand, I can never hate white people; I can hate the system which was in place that put oppression and brainwashed the white people of South Africa because most of my friends are all white,'" said Brand.

Hlonipha Mokoena, an anthropology professor at Columbia University in New York, grew up in South Africa during apartheid.  She says Mandela was incarcerated for so long, she had no idea what the man looked like.

“As a child you create this image in your mind of a person who was larger than life and who was out there in prison," said Mokoena. "You couldn’t even visualize who he was because the pictures of Nelson Mandela were banned under apartheid."

When Mandela was released from prison in 1990, Alvin Andrews was working as a cameraman for ABC-TV.  He says he waited for hours alongside hundreds of other journalists for Mandela to walk out.

“I remember as Mandela got to the gate, I was picked up by somebody, it was my soundman," said Andrews. "He put me on his shoulder and ran forward and all of a sudden I found myself over Madiba [Mandela] himself and Mandela turned and he kind of looked up.  I think it made him realize that his life was going to change forever.”

And as Mandela's life changed, South Africa changed with it.  A fact brought home, perhaps, by the sight of tourists treading the ground where men once spent their lives behind bars.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs