Sunday, April 10, 2016

South Africa 2016: Visits to Robben Island and Langa Township

I love cultural tours, whether in the U.S. or abroad. So, I was excited to get the opportunity to visit two culturally rich spots in Cape Town. One was already on my “to see” list; the other was a welcome surprise.

Robben Island was a no-brainer for me. In my opinion, you can’t visit Cape Town without heading to Robben Island - especially if you are of African descent.

Standing at the entrance of the prison with two group members.
This is the place where Nelson Mandela and other equally significant political prisoners were forced to do hard labor for stirring that “troublesome” pot known as freedom and equality for all. 

The lime quarry where Nelson Mandela and other inmates had to work.

Entering the actual maximum security prison.
This is our tour guide, "Sparks.",  a former political prisoner on the island. 

Inside the dormitory where prisoners slept and ate.

Nelson Mandela's cell. He was simply called by his number - 46664. The number reveals he was the 466th prisoner to arrive in '64.

This is all Mandela had in his cell for the 18 years he was imprisoned on Robben Island.

Posing with "Sparks", the tour guide.

The political prisoners were feared more than convicted prisoners, particularly the Black African prisoners. Their meals were not even the same as other prisoners. In fact, they were given a white “protein” drink for breakfast and supper. It turns out that drink included a substance that caused infertility for many of them.

Check out the difference between what the prisoners were given to eat. ("Bantus" were Black Africans.)

None of the prisoners were known by their names. Only their numbers. 

I could write so much more about this fascinating tour, but I don’t want to give away all of its awesomeness. Just know that Robben Island is a tour you will not regret or soon forget.

While Robben Island was a site I expected to see, Langa Township was not. Langa is Cape Town’s oldest township.(Townships are areas that were designated for all non-whites during apartheid.) In fact, the township was named in honor of Langalibalele, a chief who was imprisoned on Robben Island for rebelling against the government.

Guga Sthebe Culture & Art Center in Langa Township.

Throughout the township, you'll find several women boiling sheep heads or "smileys." The head provides quite a bit of meat for a large family. (And if you're wondering about what appears to be dirt on he face, it is actually a type of clay some of the women use to protect their skin from the sun.)

A "smiley." (Boiled sheep head.)

Posing with two Langa beauties. We loved each others' hair!
Here, you'll find beautiful people and an awesome community center that empowers and trains residents to learn a craft/trade, then go out and start their own businesses, teaching and training others. 

Women decorating their creations to be sold.

With such a high unemployment rate within this community, the community center is vital. People learn everything from business skills to pottery to drumming.

Xolani is a master drummer at the Guga Sthebe Culture & Art Center. He graciously gave us a brief lesson on the djembe.

Lisa and Jasmine prepare for our djembe lesson.

Getting my djembe lesson from the master. I wasn't too shabby.

Both Langa Township and Robben Island inspire change in one way or another…

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