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Robbin Island

By Dave Snowden  ·  October 19, 2013  ·  Reflections

Today was a day without work.  We started with a brief tour of the cape and in part the route of The Argus which I really want to plan a trip around so I can take part.  Then we had a booking on the afternoon boat to Robbin Island.  Now my mother was one of the founding members of the Anti- partite movement in the UK and did my fair share of work both outside South Africa house and in the World Council of Churches during the 70s.  So to visit a site that celebrates dignity and struggle conquering under conditions of adversity was special.

The political posters in the ferry terminal were an education in their own right as was the approach to the Island.
As to the experience itself well that was good and bad.   The tour of the prison itself was unique as we were taken around by a former inmate something that will not be available to future generations.   The importance of education, of reading and political discussion comes across strongly.  It reminded me of the Caban of the Welsh Slate Mines that was a focus for liberation within the UK in an earlier generation.  There is a depth to this period of protest that you don't see in the Occupy Movement or some of its spin offs.

Education, debate, concern are all part of effective change and the generation that wins that right probably always respects it more than those who follow.  If you haven’t yet heard Paul Robeson's 1938 transatlantic broadcast to the South Wales Miners’ Eisteddfod get a copy.   (culture as protest again both for the Miners but also Robeson whose passport had been taken away.   The conversation between Robson and Will Painter clearly demonstrates the ability of education (and in this case music) to show solidarity across boundaries and in the adversity.   Robbin Island is a key part of that movement.

The disappointment was the coach tour that preceded the visit.  Stuffed into a cramped bus we were driven through a village to a cafe and shop on the coast looking back to Cape Town.  Then we were bussed back.   I really don’t see why the prison tour should not come first and then one could be free to walk or ride (a commercial opportunity there for bicycle hire) around the Island, to see its various aspects.  I wanted time to walk and to think, instead we were processed.

From time to time we have talked about using SenseMaker® to gather experiences at sites like this and I would still like to do that (if anyone out there is listening).  Not just for the experience, but the stories told by people from different backgrounds should be a part of a growing oral history of any such site.  It should be a critical focus point for a flow of meaning and understanding over time, part of a living history rather than a static representation of the past.