|Robben Island: Nelson Mandela Slept Here
There's always a price for freedom. Nelson Mandela paid it in a prison called Robben
Mandela's six-by-eight cell, now part of a Department of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology-run
museum, is a shrine of hard concrete and moral conviction, a hellhole with a vivid history,
located in Table Bay, 11 kilometers off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.
Historically Robben Island has been prominent for 300 years, as a replenishment stop for
ships rounding Cape Horn, and as both leper and penal colonies. The world learned of its ignominy
when Mandela was incarcerated there from 1964 to 1982, his reward for working to free the
victims of apartheid.
Each squalid cell, including the one where Mandela lived for 18 years, is open daily, and
commemorates the men who lived there with a photo and keepsake of each man's prison life - a
clarinet, a flour sack-turned-journal, a straight razor.
Three-hour tours depart from the Clocktower at V&A Waterfront. The cost is R100 (about US $13
[as of November 2000]). Catamarans jet to the island in about 25 minutes.
A visit will make you realize how good freedom feels.
(For more information, visit www.robben-island.org.za.)