What would you do if you did not have the freedom to voice your opinion? Would you fight for what you believed was right or simply keep silent? Sometimes we forget how fortunate we are to be able to wake up every morning in a warm bed, with a roof over our heads, where the windows are not open spaces, there is a fridge full of food and we have the choice to do what we please that day. We have the choice to spend time with family, to have a career, to exercise our minds and bodies whenever we wish. We have the freedom to make our own choices. Whether we do or not is completely up to us. What would you do if you suddenly lost that opportunity? How would it change you?
Robben Island is an island located along the west coast of Cape Town, South Africa. It has been used for the isolation of mainly political prisoners since the end of the 17th century. It was here that Nobel Laureate and former Presidents of South Africa Nelson Mandela and Kgalema Motlanthe spent 27 years imprisoned during the apartheid era. Among those political prisoners was current President of South Africa Jacob Zuma who was imprisoned for ten years. Since 1997, Robben Island has been used as a museum and historical site focusing on South African Heritage. It is chilling to think that only a few years ago the prisoners occupied these daunting cells.
What I found most fascinating about Robben Island was the reality of how recent many of these events had occurred. As well, I was intrigued to learn that many of the former prisoners now live on the island and work as tour guides of the prison. Their stories of how they lived day to day and the mistreatment they endured as blacks. It broke my heart to even imagine that humans can be treated in this manner and it made me realize how fortunate I am to be able to make choices every day and to have freedom in my home country. I think sometime we take for granted the life we have and how blessed we are to be able to live up to our dreams.
After learning more about “Spark” our tour guide, it made me wonder, why would someone want to live and work in a place of such confinement and disturbing memories? Why would a person want to reenact this dreadful time of their life on a daily basis? To spend time talking about their experiences in the very cell they lived in for years? It made me think, is this place of comfort or protection? Spark claimed that this was his home and he felt safe here and that no one could hurt him. It gave him the opportunity to teach as many people as possible about his heritage. It made sense to me. Sometimes the most peaceful and safe environments are where people feel most familiar and whether that is a pleasant place or horrific place each has their own comfort.
I walked away today thinking of how fortunate I am to have choices, to have freedom and to most importantly have a “place” of comfort that feels safe.