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Robben Island: a trip to Nelson Mandela's prison

art & culture

A few kilometer from the continent, this island prison has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One still arrives by boat, in a very organised fashion, to this famous but sad island, where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison before being freed in 1990.

Of course, tourists have replaced the guards and prisoners, but the bars are still on the windows, witnesses to the institution's previous vocation. In fact, a former prisoner explains the daily lives of the prison's ex-‘residents'. Telling of forced labour and a lack of food to straight-out harassment, his descriptions will give you goose bumps. Look into cell 466/64, which is the most photographed. It measures 2.1 x 2.4 metres. Nelson Mandela could barely move inside it.

Other cells of Section A held hard-core political prisoners. Perhaps concentrating them together helped them to dream of another world, without apartheid. The prison in this sense could be seen as a political laboratory, one that helped educate Mandela, who would become president from 1994 to 1999.

Robben Island Museum
Private Bag Robben Island
7400 Cape Town

+27 (0)21 413 4200

www.robben-island.org.za

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