A long walk to freedom
Food for thought in Robben Island prison, Cape Town, South Africa.
(2016) The boat ride to the island was nice, although a bit windy. I did not know that when political prisoners were taken to the island years ago, they were kept in the lower parts of the ship, shackled and unaware of where they were going and what would happen. Can you imagine? One of them told me “we thought they would open the doors and just push us out, make us disappear into the sea…”
One of us wanted to know what the happiest and most difficult times were during captivity. Our guide surprised us all with his honest and surprising replies. “The happiest times where when we were playing soccer!” he smiled. On Saturdays the prisoners were allowed to play sports. “This was the only time when we could make our own rules and not have to follow the guards rules. I felt free while playing soccer” says our guide with a serene look on his face. Asked for the most difficult times, he quietly said “the family visits” and explained: “you were only allowed to see your family once every 3-6 months, for 30 mins only. Kids under 18 were not allowed to visit (even though some of the prisoners were as young at 15!). The visit was behind glass, so you could not touch your loved ones. You had to speak either English or Afrikaans, so your native language was not allowed. You could only discuss family business, no politics, not circumstances in jail. And even though you felt miserable seeing your kids grow up without knowing you, having friends and family pass away and not being able to be there, talk to them, touch them, you had to be strong. No matter how bad you felt, you had to look strong, for your family would tell everybody outside how you were doing. If you showed one sign of weakness that would discourage the freedom movement still going on on the outside.”
To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.– Nelson Mandela
I was so impressed, I needed to record my experience. I made this short Dutch video about freedom. Can you hear the emotion in my voice?