December 31: Robben Island and More on New Year’s Eve!

Wow! I’m not even sure where to start for today. Today was jam packed with incredible experiences that contribute to my research. First, we explored Robben Island, which is where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 18 years. Then, we went to the Slave Lodge to explore the history of slavery not only in South Africa but also around the entire world. After that, we traveled to the Bo Kapp neighborhood, and took a cooking class with a family who lives in the neighborhood.

As a reminder of my area of research, my research question is posted below:

What violation of law led to the detainment of Martin Luther King Jr. and the incarceration of Nelson Mandela: and how did their time behind bars help or hurt the success of the Civil Rights movement and the Anti-apartheid movement respectively?

First, let’s start with the experience that was most impactful towards unpacking this question today; and that was Robben Island. Robben island contained a prison specifically designed to destroy the hope of anti-apartheid political activists. Nelson Mandela served incarcerated time in this prison from 1964-1982. He then served time in a prison in Cape Town from 1982-1988 before eventually being released. Before touring the prison, we went toward a limestone quarry on the island. This quarry was significant because it included a pile of stones that hasn’t been touched since 1995. Back when Nelson Mandela revisited the island after becoming president of South Africa, he asked other political prisoners to join him in creating a symbol of hope. Mandela asked everyone on the island to pick up a stone of any color and place it in a pile which Mandela started himself. That pile of stones was said by Mandela to represent the diversity of those who struggled in the anti-apartheid movement and overcame their adversity to create a better society. The stones haven’t been touched in all those years, and it partially contributes to the idea of a “melting pot” or “Rainbow Nation” which is South Africa. This is a great example to show how Nelson Mandela’s incarceration resulted in success in unifying people towards his movement.

What is also interesting about this concept of a melting pot is that Martin Luther King also was from a nation that was and still is considered a melting pot. There is no one definitive culture in the United States, for so many people from so many backgrounds make up what is known as American culture. In this regard, Dr. King was also successful in bringing these different groups of people for his one cause, which was to improve the civil rights of African Americans.

Although Robben Island was the experience today which most contributed to my research topic, the Slave Lodge also provided some good information for my research. In fact, there was a whole section of the museum which was dedicated to the anti-apartheid movement that Nelson Mandela was such a huge part of. It turns out that Nelson Mandela’s success in being released from prison would have never been possible without a man named Oliver Tambo. In 1980, Tambo started the “Free Mandela” campaign, which gave Nelson Mandela the international attention needed to become the main figurehead for the Anti-apartheid struggle.

This relates to my research in the fact that Nelson Mandela was not alone in allowing his struggle to turn into success, nor would it have been possible for him to succeed had he had been alone. In fact, on Robben Island we also discussed the importance of Robert Sobukwe in the Anti-apartheid movement. Sobukwe was so influential towards getting people to resist apartheid laws that the South African government created a specific law, known as the “Sobukwe clause,” which gave the government power to keep him on Robben Island without labeling him as a political prisoner. Sobukwe had the power to do things all other prisoners couldn’t do on Robben Island, however he did not have the power to leave voluntarily or talk to other political figures of the Anti-apartheid struggle on the island. It could be argued that Robert Sobukwe was the true motivator in Anti-apartheid and Nelson Mandela just finished what he started.

Lastly was our travel to Bo Kapp neighborhood. This experience helped in the sense of understanding the “melting pot” culture of South Africa. This neighborhood had residents of traditional South Africans, even though Cape Town has a mix of people from many other countries, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, etc.

During our stay with one of the families in Bo Kapp, we learned how to cook chicken curry with naan bread as well as other traditional dishes. The family we stayed with had an Islamic background and dressed very conservatively. Through this experience, I was able to enrich my understanding of the culture of Rainbow Nation, which further helps me understand Nelson Mandela’s influence on creating this expressed diversity in the post-apartheid era.

Overall, today was jam packed with experiences that will help me in my research. It also turns out that I finished 2018 with one hell of a day! I am looking forward to tomorrow, especially our travel to Cape Point where the currents of the Southern Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean meet.

 

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