Nestled in the embrace of Table Bay, not far from the sweeping sands of Bloubergstrand, Robben Island is a haven for sea birds and seals. For centuries, it was also a harsh place of banishment and isolation. This rocky outcrop so close to Cape Town, surrounded by the icy, pounding Atlantic surf that made escape virtually impossible, became a convenient prison for anyone the authorities deemed unsavoury – from lowly convicts and rebellious Khoekhoen to lepers, from members of the Indonesian nobility and imams thought to be inciting mutiny in the East Indies to regal Xhosa chieftains, and later scores of anti-apartheid activists and prominent black leaders such as Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe. Today, the actual prison building stands deserted and the lime quarry bakes in the midday sun – mute testaments to the indomitable spirit of humanity and the will to endure, silent reminders of injustices that must never happen again. Remembering Robben Island is a heritage title in the Picturesque series of small, full-colour souvenir books. Other titles in the series include Durban & Surrounds, Drakensberg, Cape Town, Garden Route, Swakopmund, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Winelands. Author and award-winning photographer Jacques Claassen’s articles and images have appeared in various newspapers and magazines, from Die Burger, Beeld and De Kat to Insig, to mention a few. He is the author of a travel guide to Cape Town and the Western Cape, which also contained over 200 of his images. He is currently the managing editor of Farming SA and lives in Cape Town with his wife and two sons.
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