No man’s an island

posted in Cape Town

No man’s an island

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If you want a unique experience when you visit Cape Town take the trip to Robben Island or Seal Island taken from its Dutch origins.

In days dating from the 17th century to the 20th century it has been used as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups, a military base and a leper colony. In the latter 20th century it became a maximum security prison for political prisoners and is well known as the place where Nelson Mandella was incarcerated for 20 years.

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Though barren and with vegetation that is no more than bare scrub which all reflect these inhospitable times there is an undeniable free, proud spirit that now pervades the atmosphere.

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When you arrive you are collected by a bus and guide for a brief tour of the island passing areas where people were hospitalised, where lepers were segregated and buried and a limestone quarry where prisoners like Mandela were forced in intense heat to labour during the day. There was no purpose or use for the limestone and the prisoners were forced to move the stone from one side to another and back again. Not only back breaking work but an exercise to break the soul too. The combination of the blistering heat and brightness of the surroundings caused Mandela to suffer problems with his eyesight.

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The beautiful view of Cape Town in the distance that could be seen by the prisoners in transit only served as a distant reminder of lives that they formerly had.

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Perhaps the most spirited and significant part of the tour was the second half when Sipho Misumi who had been enslaved for five years on the island became our guide and picked up what became a very personal experience.

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Many stories are told on the suffering endured. How, for example, the diet for the prisoners were formed from racial classification.

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The journey and message is unlike any other to experience. More than a piece of history it serves as a moral guide showing where victory can be found in life.

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The passion and exuberance displayed by Sipho shone with the spirit of someone who, despite torture and persecution had remained true to his cause.

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I guess its no surprise that seeing Mandela’s cell will be a big crowd puller, but for me the star attraction was without doubt another survivor, in the flesh and personified.

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There were no longer any prisoners on the island. Only those who served as his captive audience.

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For there is nothing quite like a piece of history that is brought to life. Nothing can surpass personal experience.

It’s not an excursion it’s a fact of life. It’s based on striving through adversity & winning in life, it’s about holding true to your beliefs & truly desiring the happiness of others. It’s a moral example of what we should all carry to every corner of our lives.

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The journey home is picturesque and beautiful. The vision is one that captures the eye. However as the birds fly high and free, you will realise that something has changed within. You will realise the importance of liberty and freedom through democracy. You may have known this already, but I can assure you that the embodiment of truth is one to be perceived and witnessed. Struggle can undoubtedly be equal to joy.

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