Robben Island – A Photo Essay

Certain places in the world are old to humanity. Standing in Istanbul or Jerusalem, one is struck by the history of these locations and by the knowledge that even before the first histories were written, these places were well known by humanity. Other places, like Robben Island, have always been isolated, far off, and, for the greater part of history, at the very edge of the world.

south africa robben island front entrance sign

Arriving on the ferry, tour groups are conducted first on to buses, each with its own guide, that circle around the outskirts of the site.


The island itself is as dramatically beautiful as only an African landscape can be.

south africa robben island landscape view

But the prison built there feels like something in between Alcatraz and a concentration camp. Its true purpose darker than merely the incarceration of criminals.

south-africa-robben-island-prison fences

The evils of separating people out based on their ethnicity seems to emanate from the gray walls; dehumanization.

south-africa-robben-island-prison walls

The small isolation cell that Nelson Mandela spent most of his time on the island in.

south-africa-robben-island-mandella cell

Our guide spoke so powerfully about the conditions of the jail, of the meager food, of only being allowed one letter per six months from the outside world.

south-africa-robben-island-prisoner diet

Places like Robben Island, being shut down and made into monuments to this glorious fact of modern humanity, attest to the forward movement of the planet Earth and the human race.

south-africa-robben-island-museum sign