Tunde Folawiyo | Robben Island and the Imprisonment of Nelson Mandela

The city of Cape Town, South Africa is world-renowned for its stunning sights, attracting the attention of millions of visitors worldwide. The area is home to a variety of tourist attractions, providing audiences phenomenal insight into the history of the gorgeous city of Cape Town. Known not only for its landscape, Cape Town’s Robben Island remains one of the most famed locations in Tunde FolawiyoAfrica. As the site of Nelson Mandela’s infamous prison stint, Robben Island is forever cemented in the continent’s history. Those who have beheld Cape Town’s magical sights, such as Tunde Folawiyo and countless others, may have witnessed firsthand the cultural significance of Robben Island.

Located in South Africa’s Table Bay, Robben Island lies west of Bloubergstrand’s coast. Its name is derived from the Dutch “Seal Island”. It is slightly oval-shaped, covering an area spanning over 5 km. The island lies flat and is a mere few meters atop sea level, stretching 3.3 km north-south and nearly 2 km wide.

Dating back as far as the seventeenth century, Cape Town’s Robben Island has long been utilized for isolating prisoners. It is widely believed that Dutch settlers were first to use Robben Island to hold convicts. From 1961 to 1991, it served as maximum security imprisonment for the political prisoners that dared challenge South Africa’s apartheid. The site is most widely known for housing human rights activist Nelson Mandela. The Nobel Laureate, also South Africa’s former President, was imprisoned at Robben Island, sentenced to 27 years before apartheid’s fall. He served 18 year of his sentence before being released upon public demand. Two of South Africa’s former presidents, Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma both spent time at Robben Island, as well, demonstrating the immense cultural and historical significance of the landmark.

Today, Robben Island remains a well-visited tourist destination, being declared one of the World Heritage Sites during 1999. It can be reached by ferry and remains open year-round while weather permits. Tours of the prison are typically led by former prisoners turned tour guide while the island’s land is controlled by state. African citizens such as Tunde Folawiyo and countless others may be aware of the extraordinary story surrounding Robben Island in Cape Town. As the death of Nelson Mandela continues to forge an impact on those effected by civil rights injustices, the significance of Robben Island will surely grow over time, with many desiring to bear witness to the emotionally moving experience of visiting the activists’ place of imprisonment.

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