“Your book is first class. I like it very much. I like the fact that even though it is a museum now, you can feel the prison atmosphere. Your photos capture the essence of captivity. And I think perhaps that the square format lends itself to a feeling of claustrophobia.”
Patricia Ann Ruddle, editor RPS Contemporary Photography, 7th December 2012
Robbeneiland / Robben Island near Cape Town in South Africa has a long history. During the mid-1600s when the Dutch settled at the Cape, Robben Island has been used primarily as a prison. From the 17th to the 20th centuries, Robben Island served as a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment.
Indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists, including South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was imprisoned on the Island. Mandela (1918) was imprisoned on Robben Island in 1964 where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison. His prison number was 46664. The prison conditions were very basic. Confined to a small cell, the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet. He was allowed to met one visitor a year for 30 minutes. He could write and receive one letter every six months. After several years at Robben Island Mandela got his own prison garden in the courtyard near his cell.
Since 1997 Robben Island has been a museum and a heritage site. Robben Island Museum is described as the ’university of life’ for it is here where strategies for a future society based on tolerance, respect and non-racialism were nurtured and implemented by political prisoners.
Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11 February 1990. As a leader of the African National Congress (ANC), Mandela was inaugurated on 10 May 1994 as the first black President of South-Africa.