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Roxy House's Robben Island Experience

Roxy’s trip to Robben Island started off a little bumpy. We all managed to be awake and ready for the car at 11h30, but about a minute into the car ride, we realized that Sajjad (our RA) had forgotten the tickets. We had to turn back to the house to get them. 

After that minor hiccup, we made it to the Waterfront with plenty of time to spare and were able to walk around a little bit and get coffee. Unfortunately, many of the girls in the house had to fight aggressively with the harsh winds in order to walk.

While waiting on line for the ferry, we saw the Mr. Apartheid puppet and the famous quote by Ahmed Kathrada hanging on the walls as a little preview to the Robben Island Museum. The quote set the tone for the apartheid museum that we were about to see. 

Our first stop at Robben Island was one of the communal bunk rooms. Our tour guide, who was a former prisoner of Robben Island, explained to us the conditions and experience of an average prisoner. He showed us the identification and meal cards that each prisoner received and explained the blatant discrimination that was practiced against blacks, even in prison. 

The Black prisoners were given less food and worse consideration than the Whites, Coloureds, and Indians. 

We then went to the kitchen, which was a small room that housed about sixteen or so vats, used for cooking. Our guide explained that you could apply to get a job in the kitchen as a prisoner, but you had to be very disciplined because if you took an extra piece of meat, someone else would not eat that day. 

The next stop on the walking tour was to the famous 466/64 cell where Nelson Mandela was kept during his time on the island. One of our housemates, Donald (who is very tall) could hardly fit through the doorway. It is incredible to imagine that Nelson Mandela stayed there for eighteen years. 

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island.

Next, we boarded a bus and a different guide took us to the Leper Graveyard, the exhibit on Robert Sobukwe who was the founder of the Pan-African Conference. He was kept in solitary confinement for six years on the island.

Next, we visited the limestone quarry where captives had to spend 8 hours a day digging and crushing the rocks that were used to build the roads on the islands.  

The ferry ride back to the waterfront was quite a surprise. No one warned us that it would be like a scary roller coaster, but fortunately, no Roxy resident got seasick—the sign of a successful day! 


Julie Zuckerbrod is a student from Duke University. 



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